Darfur Rebel Chief to Take Role in Reshaping Sudan’s Economy

The leader of a rebel group with Islamist origins was named Sudan’s finance minister in a sweeping government reshuffle targeting an economic revival and end to conflicts that have ravaged parts of the North African nation for years.

Gibril Ibrahim, the head of the Justice & Equality Movement, once one of Darfur’s most powerful rebel groups, was named new finance chief by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Monday. His appointment comes as Sudan tries to reach an agreement on international debt relief, reform its currency and attract foreign investment.

Ibrahim on Tuesday said he was committed to working with all of Sudan’s people and international partners to rejuvenate the economy. In comments on Twitter, he pledged to resolve current shortages of fuel, bread and affordable medicine.

Hamdok also named Umma Party head Mariam Sadiq Al-Mahdi as foreign minister, while the interior, industry and information ministries got new leaders. The defense, justice and irrigation ministers were among a small number to retain their positions.

Peace Deal

Sudan is being ruled by an uneasy coalition of civilians and army figures after the overthrow of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 amid mass protests. In total, four rebels were named in the cabinet, fulfilling part of a peace deal signed in October that seeks to end long-running fighting in the western region of Darfur and states on Sudan’s southern border.

Sudan’s sovereign council, a body with quasi-presidential powers, was recently expanded to add three members of a rebel coalition to which JEM belongs. The interim government is meant to lead the country to democratic elections at a revised date that could be around late 2023.

Bashir took power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup, later cracking down on political dissent, enacting religiously inspired reforms and hosting militant groups -- activities that made Sudan a pariah in much of the western world.

Founded in 2003 by Darfurians who’d previously belonged to a major Islamist party, JEM was led for years in its campaign against the government in Khartoum by Ibrahim’s brother, Khalil, until his death in a 2011 air strike.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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