Sudan’s new government, announced late on Monday, was the latest in a series of steps designed to include in the country’s transitional process representatives of rebel groups with which a peace deal was reached late last year.
The new, 25-member government replaced a caretaker cabinet of technocrats that has been running the country since July last year. It also comes four months after the government signed a peace deal with some of the rebel groups fighting government forces in the west and south of the vast Afro-Arab country.
The first of these steps was taken last week when three rebel representatives were named to join the 11-member Sovereignty Council, a collective presidency led by Sudan’s top general, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, and which succeeded dictator Omar Al Bashir who was removed from power in 2019.
The next two steps would be the appointment of provincial governors on February 15 and the creation of a 300-seat legislature 10 days later, according to an official timeline. Rebel representatives will take up 25 per cent of the seats in the legislature.
Interestingly, rebel groups banded together in the Sudan Revolutionary Front were given the finance, mining, social development, animal wealth, transport, agriculture and federal rule ministries.
The remainder of the ministries were shared between political parties and the military, which enjoys the exclusive right of putting forward candidates for the defence and interior ministries.
"It will not going to be easy for this coalition because the challenges it faces are many," Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Monday.
“It will save Sudan from collapsing and will take the country forward,” he said, alluding to the country’s deepening economic woes, sectarian violence and the harrowing legacy of civil wars that includes displaced populations in the millions and the economic meltdown in vast areas devastated by years of conflict.
The following are the key members of the new government in Sudan.
Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim
In a surprise choice, veteran Darfur rebel leader Gibril Ibrahim was named to the key finance ministry. Mr Ibrahim is the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, which fought government forces in Darfur in an insurgency brutally put down by government forces and allied militiamen in the 2000s. He was once linked to the Islamist movement led by Al Bashir but later rebelled against them and joined the Darfur insurgency. His performance in charge of the country's finances would be closely scrutinised given the daunting economic woes facing Sudan, including the seemingly free fall of the local currency against the US dollar.
Foreign Minister Mariam Sadeq Al Mahdi
Ms Al Mahdi has for years been tipped as the legitimate political successor of her father, two-time Prime Minister Sadeq Al Mahdi who died in November. A doctor by training, the 55-year-old Miss Al Mahdi is the deputy leader of the popular Umma party. She played a key role in the December 2018-April 2019 uprising that forced Al Bashir out after 29 years in power. She is known to be wary of Sudan's move last year to normalise relations with Israel and said it could divide the nation's 40 million people.
Interior Minister Gen Ezzedeen Al Sheikh
Gen Al Sheikh was named interior minister in the new government. A former chief of the national police, he is known to be politically independent. He takes over the ministry in charge of domestic security at a time when street crime was on the rise in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, as well as other big cities across the country.
Defence Minister Gen Yassin Ibrahim Yassin
Gen Yassin retained his post as defence minister in the new government. The country's top brass brought him back from nearly a decade in retirement in June last year to succeed Gen Gamaledeen Omar, who died in March 2020 while in Juba, South Sudan, taking part in peace talks with Sudanese rebel groups. Gen Yassin has served combat tours in southern Sudan during the 22-year civil war there.
Water Minister Yaser Abbas
Mr Abbas retained his position as water minister in the new government. He has become a household name in Sudan in recent months because of his outspoken criticism of Ethiopia's handling of negotiations over the Nile dam the country is building less than 20 kilometres from Sudan's border. Of late, he has repeatedly warned against the possibly "disastrous" impact on 20 million Sudanese living on the banks of the Blue Nile if Ethiopia did not relent and share data and information on the operation of the dam, formally known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Gerd.