Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has unveiled a partially new cabinet, replacing two vice presidents in a move prompted by urgent calls for reform in his 24-year-old regime.
The changes, announced on Sunday, come less than a week after leading ruling party dissident Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani said he had launched a new “Reform” party relying on youth support. The party has since attracted thousands of supporters.
Atabani’s departure represents the most serious split in years within Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), which has faced internal criticism over alleged corruption and stagnant leadership.
The outgoing vice presidents – Ali Osman Taha and Nafie Ali Nafie – have been veteran politicians and their departure leaves Bashir “the sole master”, said Magdi El Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, a non-profit organisation working in seven countries in East and Central Africa.
“It’s probably the most significant reshuffle they’ve ever had” since 2000 when Hassan al-Turabi, a leading Islamist behind the coup, broke away and formed the opposition Popular Congress, Gizouli said.
The changes “were meant to bring forward experienced youth”, said Nafie, the NCP deputy chairman. He was quoted by the Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) which is close to the security services.
Nafie is stepping down from his post as Bashir’s adviser and assistant, to be replaced by senior NCP member Ibrahim Ghandour, officials said.
Top vice president Taha is also leaving after decades in the regime’s inner circle.
He originally led the National Islamic Front party which backed the coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989. Analysts said last year that Taha had become a possible successor to Bashir should the president step down.
Bakri Hassan Saleh, a former interior and defence minister, replaces Taha while Hassabo Mohammed Abdel Rahman becomes second vice president, senior party official Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid told the AFP news agency.
“Yes, confirmed,” Ebaid said of the appointments.
Abdel Rahman had been the NCP’s political secretary.
But Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, the defence minister, keeps his job, party officials told a press conference at NCP headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.
Both Hussein and Bashir are wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region. Also retaining his post was Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti.
A minority of cabinet members, who belong to parties other than the NCP, will keep their portfolios pending decisions by those parties, officials said.