Hamdok: Man of the moment on Sudan’s future

Saturday August 24 2019

Sudan's new Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok.

Sudan's new Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok. PHOTO | EBRAHIM HAMID | AFP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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As the new Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok took office on August 21, the biggest hope among the Sudanese was that he will turn around the economy, which was part of the reason for the protests that led to the ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Dr Hamdok, 65, comes with over 30 years of a distinguished international career, having worked with financial and non-financial multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the African Development Bank.

He was once deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and has worked in many organisations as a senior policy analyst and economist.

His world view

Dr Hamdok has been involved in addressing diverse development challenges of the African policy landscape, primarily in the fields of governance, institutional analysis, public sector reforms, regional integration and resource management.

Dr Carlos Lopes of the University of Cape Town, who worked with Dr Hamdok as his deputy at UNECA, is optimistic.

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“My former deputy at the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdalla Hamdok, with whom I co-edited a book on macroeconomics, has been selected as the new Sudanese Prime Minister, as part of the agreed settlement. Congratulations,” Dr Lopes tweeted after Dr Hamdok was named to the post.

From 2001, Dr Hamdok headed UNECA’s portfolio of activities on development policy management, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and regional integration, and governance and public administration.

He was appointed by the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon as the acting UNECA executive secretary in November 2016 and left in 2018.

Sudan’s choice

His experience at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, where he worked from 2003 to 2008 as regional director for Africa and the Middle East, is likely to come in handy as Sudan embarks on a transition to civilian rule from decades of military rule since independence in 1956. The exception was under Sadiq al-Mahdi as PM from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1986 to 1989.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance is an inter-governmental organisation that works to support and strengthen democratic institutions and processes around the world, to develop sustainable, effective and legitimate democracies.

Dr Hassan Abedelati, secretary general of the Sudanese National Civic Forum, told The EastAfrican that Dr Hamdok enjoys the support of the affiliate members of the Forces for Freedom and Change who are impressed by his career as an economist and administrator.

But that will be tested, given that he will be working with those from the Transitional Military Council, whose attitude to civilian rule remains hazy.

On August 21, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s military council, was sworn in as head of the newly formed Sovereign Council — the main governing organ in the interim period. The council is made up of five generals and six civilians.

Darfur minefield

However, analysts say that the former deputy chief of the military council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, has been the de facto power behind the council.

Hemedti is a former warlord in the Janjaweed, a government-leaning militia that was created in 2003 to fight rebels in Darfur. This would make him uncomfortable when civilian members of the Sovereign Council start pushing for transitional justice for the atrocities in Darfur, which led to the indictment of al-Bashir the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

According to Sara Abdeljalil, spokesperson of the Sudan Professional Association in the UK, there is a mixture of hope and fear in regards to Dr Hamdok’s ability to steer Sudan towards democratic and civilian rule.

“We hope that he will serve the country and lead particularly since he is an economist that will be able to handle the economic crisis. However, there is fear whether he will able to stand up to the Transitional Military Council and dismantle the deep state,” said Ms Abdeljali.

Dr Hamdok holds a PhD and a Master of Arts from the School of Economic Studies, University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Khartoum, Sudan.

The belief in him comes from the many senior positions he has held in various organisations in the last three decades.

Resource mobiliser

From 1995 to 1997, Dr Hamdok held the positions of chief technical advisor at the International Labour Organisation, Zimbabwe; principal policy economist (1997-2001) at the African Development Bank in Côte d’Ivoire; head of the public sector group and member of the management committee (1993-1995) at Deloitte & Touche management consultants, Zimbabwe; and senior official (1981-1987) at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Sudan.

After leaving UNECA, Dr Hamdok was appointed Special Advisor to the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank.

As Special Advisor, Dr Hamdok, based in Addis Ababa, was responsible for country strategies, strategic trade finance initiatives, and sub-regional economic integration projects such as resource mobilisation in support of sustainable development goals, and the advancement of the African Union’s Vision 2063 in TDB member states.

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