Abdalla Hamdok says he returned to protect Sudan's economic gains

Prime Minister has been reinstated as part of a deal with the military, weeks after it removed him from office

Abdalla Hamdok has signed a deal with the Sudanese military to return to lead a technocratic government. EPA
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Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said the need to keep the country's economic recovery was one of the reasons he agreed to return to his post as part of a deal with the military.

The agreement was signed on Sunday, about month after he was removed by the country’s senior general.

Mr Hamdok will lead a government of technocrats, with the deal also stating that protesters and members of his former Cabinet detained in the takeover would be freed.

"Among the reasons for my return is preserving the economic gains and the economic opening to the world," Mr Hamdok told Reuters on Monday.

Prominent political parties and Sudan's powerful protest movement have rejected the deal, with some calling it a betrayal or saying it provides political cover for the military takeover on October 25.

Mr Hamdok, a career UN economist, was first appointed prime minister in 2019 under a power-sharing deal with the military after former president Omar Al Bashir was ousted.

Mr Hamdok has introduced economic reforms, including the lifting of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the country's currency.

The reforms, monitored by the International Monetary Fund, earned Sudan approval for forgiveness on much of its more than $50 billion foreign debt – a deal that was thrown into doubt by the military takeover.

The World Bank and some donors paused badly needed economic assistance after the takeover.

"We will continue our contacts with international financial institutions and the new budget that will begin in January will proceed on the path of economic reform and open the door to investment in Sudan," Mr Hamdok told Reuters.

The civilian coalition that shared power with the military before the takeover and former ministers have rejected the agreement owing to a violent crackdown on protests over the past month.

At least 40 people were killed in the violence.

But Mr Hamdok said a new, technocratic government could help to improve Sudan's economy, which has suffered a prolonged crisis involving one of the world's highest rates of inflation and shortages of basic goods.

The government could also work towards completing a peace deal signed with some rebel groups last year to end years of internal conflict, he said.

"Implementing the Juba agreement and completing the peace processes with groups that did not sign the Juba agreement are at the top of the new government's agenda," he said.

"We are committed to the democratic path, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and greater opening to the world."

Mr Hamdok’s return followed international calls for Sudan to resume a transition to democracy that had been overseen by the civilian-military government.

The UAE has welcomed Sunday’s agreement to complete the process.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation has expressed faith in the ability of the Sudanese people to “overcome the challenges of the ongoing stage thanks to the constitutional, legal and political compromise that governs the transitional period”.

Egypt and the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation also praised the deal signed by Mr Hamdok and Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, Sudan’s military chief.

The US said the step was encouraging but it was looking for more action to be taken before resuming full aid to Sudan.

“I am encouraged by reports that talks in Khartoum will lead to the release of all political prisoners, reinstatement of Prime Minister Hamdok, lifting of the state of emergency and resumption of co-ordination,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

But he emphasised that Sunday’s announcement was not enough to ease strained relations with Khartoum.

He called for more talks and efforts “to complete key transitional tasks on a civilian-led path to democracy in Sudan".

The US became the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Sudan following the removal of Al Bashir in 2019.

It provided about $337 million to support the transitional government this year and has helped Khartoum in its talks with the IMF.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 5:22 PM