Bashir names new PM as protest leaders dismiss emergency

President Omar al-Bashir named a new prime minister on Saturday as he pressed on with a shake-up at the top, even as protest leaders dismissed his move to impose a state of emergency across Sudan to quell nationwide demonstrations.

Bashir’s three-decade rule has been rocked by two months of protests that a deadly crackdown has failed to suppress. On Friday, he imposed a nationwide state of emergency and dissolved the federal and provincial governments.

In a televised speech to the nation, the veteran leader pledged to form a government of technocrats to address Sudan’s chronic economic woes, which have been the driving force behind the protests.

On Saturday, Bashir sacked his vice president and long-time ally Bakri Hassan Saleh, replacing him with Defence Minister General Awad Ibnouf.

In a separate decree, he appointed Mohamed Tahir Ela, former governor of the agricultural state of Jazeera, as prime minister.

But protest organisers and their supporters in the political opposition dismissed the reshuffles.

They said the state of emergency showed that Bashir’s rule was weakened and only its overthrow would now satisfy the protesters.

“Imposing a state of emergency shows the fear within the regime,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.

“We will continue with our people to take to the streets across all towns and villages until our demand has been achieved.”

The National Umma Party, whose leader Sadiq al-Mahdi was Sudan’s elected prime minister when Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, said the protests against his successor’s iron-fisted rule would carry on until he quits.

“Dissolving the government and imposing a state of emergency is nothing but a repetition of this regime’s failures,” it said.

“Nothing will satisfy the people who are taking to the streets except the overthrow of this regime.”

Recovery now ‘less likely’ 

Late on Saturday, crowds of protesters took to the streets in Omdurman, the capital’s twin city, and in a district of Khartoum, witnesses said.

Demonstrators chanted their rallying cry of “freedom, peace, justice”, but were quickly confronted by riot police who fired tear gas to disperse them, witnesses said.

Analysts said the state of emergency was an act of desperation in the face of public anger.

“The declaration of emergency powers only makes it less likely that the economy can be revived,” said Eric Reeves, a senior fellow at Harvard University, who has tracked Sudan’s politics and economy for two decades.

“The regime has never understood economics… that’s why they are in the mess they are.”

Sudan has been hit by a chronic shortage of hard currency to pay for imports that has worsened since South Sudan became independent in 2011, taking with it the bulk of oil earnings.

The resulting shortages in basic goods have fuelled spiralling inflation that has devastated the purchasing power and living standards of ordinary Sudanese from agricultural labourers to middle-class professionals.

The immediate trigger for the demonstrations was a government decision last December to triple the price of bread, but the protests swiftly mushroomed as they fed into wider grievances.

The Sudanese Professionals Association — an umbrella group of teachers, doctors and engineers — has taken the lead, using social media to organise daily rallies.

It was only afterwards that the political opposition joined in, forming an alliance with the SPA.

“The imposing of emergency unfortunately suggests that things will get worse before they get better,” said Murithi Mutiga of the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“It concentrates powers in Bashir’s hands and sets the stage for a confrontation with the protest movement, which may become more violent than it has been.”

‘Editor detained’ 

Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed, while Sudanese officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence since the demonstrations began on December 19.

Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, activists and journalists have been jailed in a crackdown led by the feared National Intelligence and Security Service.

And the crackdown shows no sign of easing.

Soon after he imposed the emergency, prominent newspaper editor Osman Mirghani was detained by security agents for comments he made in a television interview criticising the move.

Bashir told Sudanese he understood the scale of the economic crisis facing the country.

“The economic issue needs to be tackled by qualified people and for this I will form a government made of people of quality,” he said.

The protest alliance, which also includes the political wings of rebel groups in Sudan’s three domestic war zones, has united around a platform that promises radical reforms, including an end to huge military spending on the conflicts.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Jay Deshmukh
Jay Deshmukh
Sudan Bureau Chief for Agence France Presse (AFP) based in Khartoum.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Marcia Mayaba —Driven to open doors for women

Marcia Mayaba has been in the motor industry for 24 years, donning hats that include receptionist, driver, fuel attendant, dealer principal and now chief...

ANC’s rotten apples on the chopping block

Now that the NEC has finalised its step-aside guidelines for those facing corruption charges, a swathe of officials will struggle to cling to their positions

More top stories

State rejects pyramid-schemer’s plea: ‘I stole the money, and plead...

The state has rejected fraudster Roderick Cole-Edwards’ guilty plea for R11.6-million pyramid-scheme theft

Hot topic: Is crypto’s climate cost higher than its value?

The recent blockchain boom has been followed by concerns over its impact on the environment

The plight of the ‘missing middle’ is no joke, Nzimande

Parents who, on paper, look like they can afford to pay their children’s university fees often can’t. They also miss out on funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

More ethnically diverse bone marrow donors needed to save lives

The myth that regenerative stem cells are body parts has led to donor reluctance

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…