Hamdouk on a difficult mission

8 min readOct 13, 2019


Abdul Baqi Al-Zafer- AJ. Net


In April of 1990, Abdallah Hamdouk, a graduate student at the University of Manchester, received a letter that turned his life upside down. In it, the Sudanese Minister of Agriculture informed him that he has been dismissed from his researcher position “in the interest of the general public.”

The letter shattered all his hopes and dreams for a poverty-free life. It meant the loss of his promised job within Sudan’s government as well as the abrupt end of his higher education endeavors. However, life came full circle, and, the same government that fired him, sought his support later and offered to appoint him Minister of Finance in the government of then President Omar al-Bashir.

He rejected the appointment but not on the basis of his past bitter experience. He penned a polite letter in which he cited the slim chances of success, and he promised to serve his country in the future when circumstances permit.

Dismissal letter

A little less than two years later, following the December revolution and the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, his name was floated around in the Sudanese government search for “honest and powerful” candidates for office. The man who was once dismissed from public service was back to serve his country.

The childhood of Abdullah was a tough one, his father died before he was born. He tasted the bitterness of poverty at an early age as he grew up watching his mother struggle to make ends meet in a rural and remote area away from any modern life.

The year of his birth, 1956, also marks the birth of the new Sudan. He was born in the area of Dbibat in South Kordofan. This area is known for its abundance and generous nature but the policies of the al-Bashir regime stripped it from all goodness and turned it into a battleground for civil war.

Believing that education is his best option to free him from the burden of poverty, the young Hamdouk moved to the city of Dilling where he completed middle school. He then started his studies at the Higher Institute of Education to become a teacher, but later changed his mind, and completed his high school education at the prestigious school of Khor Taqat.

Moving to this school played a key role in shaping his political views especially the rise in conflict between the political Right and Left at that time.

The good news came to him through Omdurman Radio in 1975 when they announced his name among the students admitted to the University of Khartoum. There, he studied agricultural economics at the Faculty of Agriculture and graduated with honors in 1981.

The university was his playground to test his political ideology, and this is how he got involved in activism and became affiliated with the Communist Party movement.

According to his colleague Ahmed Abker Mohammed, His preoccupation with studying and academic achievement and his interests in culture and networking, prevented him from taking leadership roles in the movement.

From Khartoum to Britain

Hamdouk started his professional life in Kadugli, South Kordofan with the Nuba Mountains Agricultural Company, and he worked at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. In 1987, After years of working in governmental positions, he decided to leave Khartoum and go to Britain seeking more academic knowledge as part of a governmental mission.

Hamdouk chose to start his overseas trip at the University of Manchester where he received a Master’s Degree.

In 1993, he received his doctorate from the same university, and became an expert in economics and human development.

Seeking academic knowledge did not prevent him from completing “the other beautiful half” of his life. He married his fellow researcher Mona Mohammed Abdullah and they had two boys: Ali and Amr.

1990 brought sad news to Hamdouk. He received a letter from the Sudanese government dismissing him from public service citing “public interest,” as he mentioned in a brief letter to Al Jazeera Net. That event did not stop him from seeking academic knowledge, he managed to complete his studies through a grant provided by the University for high achieving students.

When he was unable to go back to Sudan to complete his field research, he chose to go to Zimbabwe for the similarities of conditions between both countries. Moving to Zimbabwe had a major impact on his relationship with Africa.

In 1991, with the collapse of Communism in Russia, Hamdouk went through personal political changes and declared a fair parting with the Communist Party.

More than a mission in Africa

In 1993, Abdullah chose migrating through Africa instead of the more comfortable path of going to Gulf countries and earning high salaries as his peers were doing. This is how he ended up working for one of the world’s most renowned private sector audit firms in Zimbabwe.

Two years later, in 1995, he joined the International Labor Organization Offices at Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Later on, he held a position at the United Nations Development Program.

He stayed in Harare until 1997, then he moved to Ivory Coast where he worked for The African Development Bank for five years.

In 2001, he returned to the United Nations to serve in The Economic Commission For Africa. In 2003, he moved to South Africa and became the Regional Director of the Institute For Democracy and Aid. He served his native country Sudan since his assignments covered Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2005, he had a big role in signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan by providing technical support and counseling for the party leaders and decision makers in his country.

In 2008, he joined the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa at its headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa until he retired in 2018.

Democracy and good governance

In Addis Ababa, Hamdouk accumulated a great experience in governance and development by having a senior position at the United Nations. Additionally, he had a special relationship with the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, one of Africa’s most prominent men in the past decades, and whose marks are visible in Ethiopia’s renaissance.

He also managed the Division of Good Governance and Development, and later he became Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the United Nations. Then, he took charge of the agency until he retired while at the top of his career.

A warrior’s rest

In October 2018, Abdullah Hamdouk retired; but, before he started writing his memoirs, the government of Sudan had different plans for him. They asked him to become the treasurer of the salvation government. This offer came after the visit of President Omar Al-Bashir to Ethiopia where he discovered the Sudanese man, according to sources. Hamdouk apologized and turned down the position.

Later on, in November 2018, he received another offer from the African Trade and Development Bank as an advisor, but this time he took the job and he still occupy it till writing this report.

Being occupied with the executive daily routine did not prevent him from volunteering at different organizations. For years, he was an active member at the Good Governance Foundation, founded by the British Sudanese Mohammed Ibrahim, known as Mr. Mo in Britain. The foundation awards a substantial prize to the most compliant African presidents with good governance.

Hamdouk is also active with The African Alliance for Development, a network of African leaders, and one of its prominent members is the former Nigerian President Obasanjo.

One of Hamdouk’s roles in Africa is being one of the most influential figures at the organization of Combating Illegal Financial Flows in Africa and of the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism, which oversees the establishment of good governance practices in Africa.

The most difficult task

Today, the life of Hamdouk is at turning point after being touted as Prime Minister for the Transitional government that’s expected to be announced soon, and this is considered as one of the most difficult tasks for him.

According to sources for Aljazeera Net, choosing him for this job wasn’t an easy task especially that many other high profile Sudanese politicians competed for the job. His international experience and him not being affiliated with any political group, helped in making the decision and choosing him.

Some experts and The colleagues of Hamdouk have different views on him leading the Transitional government.

Dr. Adam Berima, Director of Macroeconomics at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Hamdouk’s colleague since Manchester University, he seems very optimistic that Abdullah will pass the toughest test.

“Very intelligent, versatile, multi skilled, and rich in experience,” Berima describes his colleague and he considers him as highly resourceful at handling difficult and complex situations.

However, a source who requested anonymity has a different opinion. He says Hamdouk is not suitable for this period, because he tends to compromise and does not make firm decisions. This view has been shared with another prominent leader in the forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, who preferred not to be named, qualified him as a mere international ‘Afandi’ — a foreign entity. Then he clarified that the complex political situation requires primarily a Political Prime Minister.

The Sudanese scholar Salah Albandar pointed out that Hamdouk might have the complex of international civil servants who don’t know much about the reality of the country and can easily “drown in an inch of water.” He gives the experiences of Mohamed ElBaradei in Egypt, Kofi Annan in Ghana and Kamil Idris in Sudan, as examples.

However, a Sudanese journalist and spokesperson for the Professionals’ Association of France, Mohamed al-Asbat, is more optimistic about the role of Hamdouk. He puts issues of peace, economic crisis and deep state liquidation as the main challenges facing Abdullah Hamdouk.

For his part, Sudanese journalist Yusuf Abdul Mannan seems confident about Hamdouk’s missions. He describes him as having extensive relations in the African milieu and enjoys the confidence of Westerners.

The red flag haunts Hamdouk

Even though Hamdouk left the Communist Party in 1991, according to one of his close friends, the red flag is still haunting him to the present day.

Leaving the party does not stop journalist Youssef Abdel Mannan from considering him as communist in terms of commitment. However, he is enthusiastic for Hamdouk’s success and maintains that he is open-minded in his relations.

Along with that, Sudanese researcher Salah al-Bandar points out that the organizational affiliation may be one of the problems that Hamdouk will face once he became the prime minister of the Transitional government.

Hamdouk has varied and strong relationships in the African and international community in Addis Ababa. He built friendships with a number of African leaders such as former South African President Thambo Mbeki, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and former Nigerian President Obasanjo. Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was also known to be a big fan of his successes.

In silence there is talk

Dr. Abdullah Hamdouk has mastered the art of silence despite the regularity of attacks on him. But his silence was interpreted by some as his way of concealing his background as a graduate of Agriculture, to give the impression that he is an economist.

According to one of his relatives, Hamdouk is a Canadian citizen, something he did not announce to date. The dual citizenship might not be an obstacle for Hamdouk to be Prime Minister as the constitution grants many provisions and exceptions in this regard.

Brima, one of Hamdouk’s colleagues and his close friend, told Al Jazeera that Hamdouk will remain silent and won’t speak at all, and that he decided to deactivate his Facebook account as well.

Apparently, Hamdouk has learned repeatedly through his international career that silence is a statement. He also learned that making political deals requires calm and patience, and that sometimes the situation just needs a smile. A smile similar to the one he has always worn on his face through thick and thin.

Source: Aljazeera.net (Original Content -Arabic)




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