Sudan’s new rulers include a journalist, a physics teacher, and a Coptic woman
Abdul Baqi Al Dhafer- AJ. Net
On Saturday, Mohammed al-Faki Suleiman, a journalist at the Qatari newspaper Al-Arab, had bid farewell to his colleagues before leaving for his new headquarters at the presidential palace in Khartoum as one of the recently appointed 11-member Sovereign Council in Sudan.
Over the past few days, the presidential palace in Khartoum has witnessed unusual activity as preparations to receive the nine new rulers of Sudan are underway. The forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change have been meeting for five consecutive days to choose five people representing the civilian component of the new Sovereign Council.
Negotiations were on the brink of collapse on many occasions. The last meeting lasted about 13 hours and members of the central council resorted to a vote for the first time. In other instances, former Prime Minister and leader of the Umma Party, Sadiq al-Mahdi, intervened dramatically. On the evening of August 18, he broke into a joint meeting of members of the Transitional Military Council and representatives of the Freedom and Change alliance who were finalizing the composition of the first Sovereign Council at the presidential palace, imposing a 48-hour deadline to review the list of names.
Al Jazeera obtained details of the crucial hours leading up to the selection of the new rulers.
What happened to the old list?
On July 4, Aljazeera Net obtained the names of the candidates of the Sovereign Council from the Nominations Committee of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Alliance. The list included Siddig Bolad, Taha Osman Ishaq, Babikir Faisal, Fadwa Abdul Rahman Ali Taha and Hassan Sheikh Idris. But since then, Fadwa Abdul Rahman Ali Taha, a professor of history at the University of Khartoum who had been nominated by the civil society block, declined the position.
Fadwa’s refusal to join the Sovereign Council was motivated by her opposition to the quota that excluded the young candidate, Mohamed Osman Hassan al-Taayeshi, from the nomination list. Babiker Faisal also turned down the position as he wished to devote time to building a unionist block, according to press sources. Other sources, however, did not rule out the possibility that the ban on dual citizenship for membership in the Sovereign Council could be the main reason behind Babiker’s choice to stay away from the nomination list.
The Nomination Committee for high-ranking state positions has just been formed of representatives of the five major blocks of the Freedom and Change Alliance. The Committee is responsible for making nominations for 1,400 diplomatic, economic and political positions. The committee’s most important responsibility was to select members of the Sovereign Council and nominate an expanded list to the Prime Minister, from which he would choose 20 ministers.
The committee’s nominations were based on criteria derived from geographical and social considerations. However, when the committee presented its list to the Sovereign Council, some revisions were made. Thus, over the course of five consecutive days, an extended meeting brought together the committee members, the Freedom and Change Coordination Council, and the central council to approve five names in addition to a sixth, which would be subject to a veto by the military council.
Why is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) retreating?
The review led initially to the exclusion of Ishaq following the SPA’s announcement that it would not put forward any names to the Sovereign Council or cabinet. Then the SPA proposed Ataayushi as a representative in the Sovereign Council, but there were those who objected for two main reasons. First, he belongs to the Arab tribes in Darfur and has served as an advisor to the Transitional Authority there. This contravenes the criteria agreed upon which require the dismissal of anyone who had held a public position during the years of the National Salvation.
Also, the need for more balance in the Sovereign Council would have required the selection of a representative of African tribes, especially after the tumult of protests against marginalization among armed movements and some activists. When Ataayushi left, the SPA was compelled to nominate once again the young lawyer Ishaq to the Sovereign Council. But discontent within the SPA made them back away once more from supporting Taha, who then turned down the nomination.
At that point Ataayushi comes back as an option imposed by the masses of the rebellious street. He is a former young leader of the Umma Party. Born in 1979, he led the University of Khartoum Student Union and spearheaded reform, creating disobedience in the old party before having to migrate to Britain in the face of rising resentment.
An unexpected opportunity
Dr. Aisha Musa al-Said, the widow of the poet Mohammed Abdel-Hay, was an unexpected nomination that resulted from Professor Fadwa Taha’s withdrawal. Dr. al-Said has three points of strength as a nominee. She represents women, civil society, and the large central region.
Aisha was born in El-Obeid city in the North Kordofan state. After she graduated from the Teachers Institute in Omdurman, she completed her postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester in Britain. She then worked as a teacher in secondary schools and a number of universities. She is known for her research and writings in literature.
Similar to Aisha, al-Faki was not a strong candidate and was an expatriate in Qatar until Sunday morning. He is a University of Khartoum graduate, with a Master’s degree in political science. He was born in 1979 and worked in the Arab newspaper. He has published a number of novels and short stories. He was chosen for the post following Babikir Faisal’s turning down of the nomination. Al-Faki represents the Northern State and the Federal Block.
What does the East want?
The representation of eastern Sudan has been a thorny issue. It has been absent from the calculations of the Military Council and those of the Freedom and Change Alliance. A number of names were put forward, including Suleiman Hamid who won a seat in the 2010 elections.
Hamid, who aspires to play a political role in the upcoming elections, turned down the post. Other considerations opened the door to Hassan Sheikh Idris as a potential nominee. He is a former deputy of the Umma party in the “pre-salvation” parliament.
Idris graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Khartoum in 1972 and worked in Bahrain and Oman as a legal advisor before returning to Khartoum years ago. But he has been out of politics for a long time.
A physics teacher
Choosing Dr. Siddiq Tawer was not an easy task. His political background as an Arab Baath party activist along with a tacit veto from the Popular Front of Abdel Aziz al-Hilu almost blocked his nomination. His nomination brought about an unexpected visit by al-Mahdi last Saturday evening to the 12-member committee during their meeting at the Republican Palace. The committee, which was commissioned to make a final decision on the Freedom and Change list and which is chaired by Sarah Naqdallah, had by then settled the nomination list for the Sovereign Council, including Tawer.
Al-Mahdi’s intervention was intended to block Tawer’s nomination to please al-Hilu. But al-Mahdi’s mission was unsuccessful because the experienced Baathists were ready to turn the tables and bring the nominations back to square one, according to a source who was present at the meetings. Tawer, who has sparked off this controversy, was born in 1959 and graduated from the Faculty of Science at al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently a professor at the University of Technology in Omdurman. He was also the Secretary General of the Sudanese Physics Society. He had worked at a Saudi university before resigning because he was harassed due to his affiliation to the Arab Baath Party, according to sources close to him.
A Coptic woman to achieve balance
The Declaration of Freedom and Change Alliance paid attention to the Christian community, which, albeit limited in number, has tangible socio-economic influence. The alliance decided to allocate a seat to the Christian community, which would likely be approved by the military council.
The list included Dr. Nasri Morcos, a pharmacist who heads Sudan’s private Pharmacies Division at the Sudanese Trade Union, along with Rajai Edward, a physiotherapist who runs a number of specialized centres in the field.
Dr. Aida Shafiq was the third name on the list. She is a well-known economist who had previously been responsible for the strategic inventory at the Ministry of Finance. During the meetings, the principle of having Christian representation was agreed upon, but the military requested additional options.
At that point the name of Raja Nicola Abdul-Masseh was put forward. The two parties agreed on the nomination of Raja, a legal counsellor who graduated from Cairo University in Khartoum and joined the Ministry of Justice, where she has worked in a number of departments and risen to the position of general counsel.
The military is in a state of serenity
The Military Council has been completely calm. Top generals seem to have made up their mind early. They needed to get rid of two names on their list and replace them with others.
According to a military source, it was agreed to keep al-Burhan since he is the current head of the Military Council. The same principle was applied to Hemeti in recognition of his leading role. Lieutenant General Yassir al-Atta and Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabashi were also chosen for their instrumental role in facilitating communication with the Freedom and Change Alliance.
Competition for the fifth seat was confined to Major General Ibrahim Jaber and General Salah Abdel Khaleq. It was resolved when the latter turned it down due to illness.
One of the options was to propose Major General Jaber for the post of interior minister, but the idea was then abandoned in favor of leaving the decision to senior police officers.
As for General Jamal Omar, he is likely to be in charge of the Ministry of Defense, according to the same military source, although he is competing for this position with the former commander of Rapid Support Forces, Lieutenant General Abbas Abdul Aziz.
Consensus is hard to achieve
Despite the arrangements made during the long meetings between the Freedom and Change Alliance, on the one hand, and members of the Military Council on the other, the final list was met with some protests because of the poor representation of the African tribes of Darfur in the Sovereign Council.
This situation may have given the Revolutionary Front political ammunition to attack the consensus over the rejection of political quotas, an approach that has led to a dilemma where it is hard to achieve social equilibrium in a diverse and multi-ethnic country.
Source: Aljazeera.net (Original Content -Arabic)