What will al-Bashir do as succession divides party?

Saturday March 17 2018

Sudan President Hassan Omar al-Bashir’s term expires in 2020. He came to power in June 1989 through a military-backed coup. PHOTO | AFP


Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is facing challenges in managing his succession in 2020 with power tussles threatening to divide the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

In February, the president formed a special committee of the NCP to advise on the succession, but observers say that power wrangling within the inner circle of the party could scuttle the process and force President al-Bashir to handpick a candidate or change the Constitution and run again.

Last November, President al-Bashir identified Gezira Governor Mohamed Tahir Ayala as his successor when he steps down in 2020 since the constitution does not allow him to run again.

But his choice did not attract popular support, as three organs with influence in the succession — the Shura Council (the top organ of the party), Sudan Armed Forces and the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) — did not publicly endorse Mr Ayala.

While Mr Ayala, an economist, is a longtime operative of the NCP, he has no military and intelligence background, which are considered essential for al-Bashir’s successor.

The Shura Council is divided, with some members pushing for President al-Bashir to change the Constitution and contest again, while others want him to retire.


According to Magnus Tailor, an analyst with the International Crisis Group Horn of Africa who covers Sudan and Uganda, says that given the current situation, President al-Bashir would opt to contest again.

He is, however, being opposed by former NISS chief, Nafie Ali Nafie, who was previously influential but whose fortunes have waned with time.

“It appears that the majority of the Shura Council are not comfortable with President al-Bashir running again but the council is part of the NCP which would not resist the president’s decision at the crucial time,” said Mr Taylor.

According to the constitution, Prime Minister — who oversees the day-to-day running if the government — is supposed to succeed President al-Bashir upon his exit after his final term expires in 2020.

Currently, there are two main leaders that have potential of succeeding President al-Bashir; the first vice-president and Prime Minister, Bakri Hassan Saleh, and Salah Mohamed Gosh, the head of NISS.

Mr Gosh was dismissed from the agency in 2009 after serving for a decade and was appointed presidential adviser until he was dismissed again in early 2011.

Sources close to the NCP said that President al-Bashir recent reshuffle of the military leadership and intelligence agency are meant to eliminate those with strong influence who might resist if he decides to stick with Mr Ayala, another person or decide to run again.

Towards the end of February, President al-Bashir made a major reshuffle of the military in what observers see as getting rid of his long term allies that might oppose his choice once the time comes.