Sudan to replace military governors over dispute

It comes days after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok fired the capital’s governor, a military official, for refusing to close places of worship due to the coronavirus outbreak

Sudan's Minister of Health Akram Ali Altom speaks during a Reuters interview amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Khartoum, Sudan April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
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Sudan will replace all provincial military governors with civilians in the coming week, the information minister said, after tense talks within the power-sharing government over the pace of the nation’s democratic transition.

The North African country, where the army overthrew long-time ruler Omar Al Bashir a year ago, will also appoint a transitional parliament by the start of May, the minister, Faisal Mohamed Salih, said on Saturday.

Tensions have flared in Khartoum in recent days after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok fired the capital’s governor, a military official, for refusing to close places of worship and markets to defend against the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor then declined to leave the post, testing the already fragile relations between the transitional government’s civilian and military wings.

Mr Salih dismissed the idea floated by some supporters of the government’s civilian side that the military was plotting a coup.

He described “a very tough series of meetings” between Mr Hamdok, military representatives and a key activist coalition, the Forces for Freedom and Change, that produced a new agreement.

An army spokesman, Brigadier Amer Mohamed Al Hassan, described the idea of a planned coup as “fabricated”.

Sudan, an international pariah for much of Al Bashir’s three-decade rule, is struggling to build its democratic institutions before elections slated for 2022, in a political transition that’s being closely watched across the Arab world.

Many of its military rulers are veterans of Al Bashir’s regime and there’s deep skepticism among activists over their commitment to surrendering power.

Mr Salih said the Khartoum state governor had now been replaced by a civilian, and the 17 other provincial heads will be changed in the coming days.

The posts will be temporary until a final peace deal is made between Sudan’s government and a patchwork of rebel groups.

Sudan, which has reported 66 cases of the coronavirus including 10 deaths, began a three-week lockdown on Saturday to stop its spread. The outbreak will cause yet more havoc for an economy already shattered by years of sanctions and mismanagement.