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Sudan’s ruling party delays approving cabinet reshuffle amid reports of VP Taha’s departure

December 4, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - The leadership council of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Sudan postponed Wednesday’s planned meeting to endorse the new cabinet formation until Saturday.

Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir is welcomed by vice-president Ali Osman Taha after arriving at Khartoum airport on 31 March 2011 (Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

There were conflicting explanations given for the rescheduling, with some sources saying it was necessitated by the preoccupation of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir with the ongoing visit of Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

But other sources said strong disagreements had emerged between NCP leaders over the upcoming government reshuffle.

The weekly Elaph newspaper reported that vice-president Ali Osman Taha has tendered his resignation and that the minister for presidential affairs, Bakri Hassan Saleh, will replace him.

Saleh is the last remaining member of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation formed after the 1989 military coup, which previously consisted of 15 officers along with Bashir.

He is also one of the few military figures to have remained in the government, switching between the ministries of defence and the presidency.

Taha was rumoured to be tapped to take over the parliament speakership which sources said had infuriated the vice-president, prompting him to call it quits. He reportedly vacated his office at the presidential palace on Tuesday night.

If proven, Taha’s departure may pave the way for more radical changes in the executive branch which many critics say has remained stagnant for many years.

On Tuesday, Bashir bid farewell to his previous cabinet during the weekly meeting, although the new line-up has yet to be announced and is said to be known to very few besides the president.

The reshuffle has been anticipated since early this year, amid deep divisions within the ruling party in the wake of a coup attempt staged last year by NCP supporters and Islamists in the military and security.

Another crisis shook the NCP when more than 30 of its top members, including the former head of its parliamentary caucus and former presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani, presented a memo to Bashir in September criticising the government’s decision to remove subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities, saying it “harshly” impacted Sudanese citizens.

The splinter group chided the government for its use of excessive violence against protestors, who took to the streets following the decision, calling for deep political and economic reforms.

They also urged Bashir to form a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of various political forces and assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team.

“The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today”, they said in a letter to Bashir, which was seen as a direct challenge to the president who is now the country’s longest serving leader.

Bashir formed a committee headed by national assembly speaker Ibrahim Al-Tahir to query the signatories petition that was circulated publicly.

The commission of inquiry recommended dismissing three members, including al-Attabani, and temporarily suspending nine others. The decision was endorsed by the NCP leadership council.

Al-Attabani and others later declared their intention to leave the party and form a new one that would “bring new hope to Sudan”. This week they officially applied for permission to establish it.

(ST)