Sudan replaces slew of top ministers to speed political reforms

CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudan’s prime minister replaced the finance, foreign, energy and health ministers on Thursday as part of a reshuffle aimed at accelerating the country’s political transition following calls from pro-democracy groups for faster change.

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The reshuffle, which saw seven ministers replaced in all, could pave the way for the signing of a delayed peace deal with some of Sudan’s rebel groups, in which the groups expect to get seats in transitional bodies including the cabinet and a legislative council that is yet to be formed.

Premier Abdalla Hamdok leads a government of technocrats under an awkward, 39-month power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian groups, following the removal of long-time President Omar al-Bashir last year.

Authorities had said a reshuffle was coming, but few had expected the exit of Ibrahim al-Badawi, who as finance minister led efforts to steady Sudan’s crisis-stricken economy, launching subsidy reforms and liaising with foreign donors.

Badawi stepped down of his own accord, official sources said. They added that the appointment of senior finance ministry official Heba Ali as Badawi’s caretaker replacement was intended to signal continuity.

In a tweet, Badawi gave no reason for his resignation, but expressed happiness that Ali would take over his duties.

The reshuffle comes nine days after street protests demanding faster and more comprehensive reforms. This week, Hamdok fired Sudan’s police chief and his deputy, who were seen by pro-democracy groups as close to Bashir’s regime.

Hamdok said the reshuffle was intended to “advance the performance and execution of the transitional period’s missions and respond to accelerated economic and social changes”.

Among those replaced were Asmaa Abdallah, Sudan’s first female foreign minister, and the minister of energy and mines, Adel Ali Ibrahim.

While the government said six of the seven replaced ministers had resigned, Ali Akram Altom, who as health minister was tasked with steering Sudan through the new coronavirus outbreak, was dismissed from his post.

Caretaker replacements were appointed to all seven ministries.

Additional reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Ali Mirghani; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Alison Williams and Pravin Char