Sudan reshuffles Cabinet to woo back ex-rebels

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has reshuffled his Cabinet in a bid to ease tensions with southern former rebels who pulled out of the unity government last week, an official said on Wednesday.

The most important change will be to the post of foreign minister, currently held by Lam Akol, which will go to Deng Alor, the official said.

The southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) recalled its ministers from the Cabinet last Thursday over what it called Khartoum’s failure to implement a 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan that ended a decades-long civil war.

The group said it would be willing to rejoin the government if Bashir meets its demands, which focus on getting Khartoum’s troops out of the south and resolving the fate of the disputed oil district of Abiye.

It had also cited Bashir’s refusal to reshuffle the southern ministers in the Cabinet, including Akol, as pivotal in its decision to pull out.

Akol, a southerner considered by the SPLM to be close to Bashir’s National Congress party, will become minister of Cabinet affairs.

There was no official reaction from the SPLM but a representative of the movement said that the new ministers were part of a list it had submitted to Bashir.

Mansur Khaled, a northerner and member of the SPLM who was adviser to late SPLM chief John Garang, will become minister of foreign trade.

Khaled has held ministerial office on four occasions, including the post of foreign minister in a previous government.

James Kol Rol takes the post of minister of humanitarian affairs while Kosta Manibi becomes minister of investment.

Health Minister Tapita Boutros and Transport Minister Kwal Miang, both southerners, retain their portfolios.

Six southern ministers of state have been added to different posts and two presidential advisers named, according to decrees signed by Bashir.

The reshuffle, which took place late on Tuesday, came hours after a meeting between Bashir and a delegation of southern officials led by SPLM number two Riek Mashar.

Mashar said he and two more of the group’s officials had met Bashir to discuss a letter to him from Salva Kiir, SPLM chief and first vice-president.

Kiir is also expected to hold talks with Bashir in the next two days, Mashar said.

“The meeting was cordial, and the two leaders will meet soon to discuss the outstanding issues and resolve the crises between the parties triggered by the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and violation of the spirit and equal partnership between the two parties,” he said.

Mashar was referring to the 2005 CPA, which ended 21 years of war between the Muslim north and mainly Christian and animist south that killed at least two million people and displaced millions more.

The SPLM’s decision to withdraw its 19 ministers and deputy ministers from government presented the first major threat to the peace deal.

The pull-out also overshadowed peace talks scheduled for October 27 between Khartoum and rebels from the western region of Darfur, who accuse the army and allied militia of launching a new offensive after four years of civil war. — AFP

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