Former UN Economist Becomes Prime Minister in Crisis-Hit Sudan

Mohammed Alamin

(Bloomberg) -- A Sudanese economist who’s worked for the United Nations and African Development Bank was sworn in as the first prime minister since President Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow, pledging to overhaul the country’s ravaged economy.

Abdalla Hamdok, the opposition’s choice for the premiership, took the oath of office late Wednesday. He’s the latest person to join a transitional government that’s meant to rule for three years and divide powers between pro-democracy activists and the military that ousted Bashir. His appointment came after months of protests, crackdowns and stalled negotiations.

“The slogan of ‘freedom, peace and justice’ will be the program of the transitional period,” Hamdok told reporters in the capital, Khartoum. He said that “with the right vision and right policies we will be able to address this economic crisis” that’s seen inflation rocket over 45% and shortages of fuel, bread and banknotes.

Sudan’s turmoil has been closely watched in North Africa and the Middle East, where the uprisings earlier this decade that unseated presidents from Tunisia to Yemen are fresh in the memory. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan, where soaring costs of living sparked the demonstrations in late 2018. The Gulf states’ prior interventions in uprisings have acted to bolster national armies or maintain the status quo.

Another major component of the transitional government -- a so-called sovereign council made up of six civilian and five military representatives and holding some executive powers -- was sworn in earlier Wednesday. Its head is Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a lieutenant-general who led the previous military council, and Mohamed Hamdan, the leader of a militia accused of a fatal crackdown on protesters also has a place. A cabinet of technocrats is set to be announced later this month.

A graduate of universities in Manchester, England, and Khartoum, Hamdok was a policy economist at the African Development Bank and also worked with the International Labour Organization in Zimbabwe. More recently, he served as the deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

The government, including members of the main Freedom and Change opposition coalition, will tackle “the immediate challenges through a recovery program that will address peoples’ needs and the issues of inflation and availability of commodities including wheat, fuel, medicines,” Hamdok said. He also said work is needed to restore trust in the “banking sector that has almost collapsed.”

Other people on the sovereign council include:

Mohamed Alfaki Suleman, a journalist, author and leading member of the Sudanese Unionist PartyAlsidig Touwer Kafi, a physics professor and prominent member of Sudan’s Baath PartyRaja Nicole Issa, a lawyer and one of only two women membersShams Aldin Kabashi, a lieutenant-general who was spokesman for the military council

(Updates with comment from premier starting in first paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mohammed Alamin in Khartoum at malamin1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Michael Gunn, Giulia Camillo

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