Hamdok, UN economist turned Sudanese premier
Sudan's new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is a seasoned economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country's moribund economy. Hamdok built a career in continental and international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.
The joint civilian-military council replaced the transitional military council that took charge in April when Islamist general Omar al-Bashir was forced from power by relentless street protests.
The Sudanese people's main expectation of Hamdok will be tangible solutions to the dire economic crisis Bashir's rule and the last few months of political turmoil have caused.
"With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis," he told reporters after taking the oath on Wednesday. He vowed to devise an urgent recovery programme addressing the shortages of basic commodities that have plagued Sudan and its 40 million inhabitants recently.
The protests that eventually ended Bashir's 30-year rule were ignited in December last year by the tripling of bread prices.
The women of Sudan's protests
Women have been the driving force behind the months of protest that resulted in the ousting of Sudan's long-term president, Omar al-Bashir, in a coup d'état. They continue to protest for peaceful change and are willing to accept great hardships along the way.
Alaa Salah, the woman who became famous worldwide when an image of her leading chants to a crowd went viral
The woman who came back: Khadija Saleh lived abroad for six years. She returned to her native country in March in order to take part in the protests for a new Sudan. "I left my safe place because I want a better future for this country," says the 41-year-old.
The activist: when security forces violently broke up a protest camp close to the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum on 3 June, 53-year-old Nahid Gabralla was beaten and threatened with rape. "My daughter deserves to live in a good country. That is why we are fighting for a democratic Sudan."
The supporter: Hadia Hasaballah works for an NGO that supports victims of the violence that took place on 3 June. Eye witnesses and activists have reported that women were sexually abused on that day. There is no official confirmation that these acts were perpetrated. "No Sudanese woman will openly admit that she was raped because of the stigma attached" says Hasaballah.
The silent warrior: during the Bashir era, there were strict moral codes for women. They could be arrested simply for wearing trousers. Mahi Aba-Yazid was wearing trousers when she was in the protest camp in Khartoum. She too was beaten. The 35-year-old believes that the reason was more the clothes she was wearing and less her devotion to the cause
The independently minded woman: "I don't want to wear a headscarf, but it is not my decision," says 23-year-old student Duha Mohmed. She would like to have the right to wear what she likes. This was one of the reasons she took part in the protests.
The optimist: Nagda Mansour spent 75 days in prison because she took part in a demonstration in December. The 39-year-old translator finds it problematic to negotiate with the military about change because of the army's role in the war in Darfur. Nevertheless, she considers the agreement to initially share power with the military to be "a beginning, not the end."
The mother: shocked by the violence, Manal Farah asked her son not to take part in the protests. The 22-year-old student was killed. When he started university, her son began to ask why there was so much corruption in Sudan. He felt passionately that change was necessary for a new Sudan. "I pray that my son's dreams will come true."
In the longer term, Hamdok emphasised the need to improve productivity and rebuild a banking sector he said had all but collapsed. His credentials as an economist seem solid, as was abundantly documented in the official biography distributed to media during his oath-taking ceremony.
The text stressed Hamdok is "highly credible among African finance and development institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club" of creditor countries.
Hamdok worked for the African Development and Trade Bank and is credited with shaping some of the policies that spurred Ethiopia's rapid economic growth under the late prime minister Meles Zenawi. Greeted as the saviour of Sudan's economy, the greying, moustachioed technocrat was all smiles when he took questions from journalists on his first day on the job.
While he was outside Sudan and not directly involved in the protest movement that terminated Bashir's rule, Hamdok's appointment appeared to be well received by the population.
"He has the skills we need the most at the moment," said Sumaila Ibrahim, a 21-year-old student at Khartoum University.
Hamdok is also an alumnus, having completed a degree in agricultural economics in the capital before moving to Manchester in the United Kingdom for his masters. Besides his credentials as an economist, Hamdok has carved an image as a champion of transparency and good governance in the course of his rich career in African organisations.
He sat on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was founded by the eponymous Sudanese-British billionaire to promote good governance and leadership in Africa. Last year he turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister as part of a government reshuffle.
As the head of Sudan's future government, which according to a roadmap laid out by protest leaders and generals is to be formed by 28 August, Hamdok is not only in charge of the economy however. He will need to draw on his experience in his various African peace-building initiatives to bring an end to deadly conflicts in Sudan's regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Hamdok was born in 1958 in the state of South Kordofan, which found itself on Sudan's southern border when South Sudan became independent in 2011, after decades of war with the north. His own native village is now in a war zone and Hamdok will be keen to push for a resolution of Sudan's civil conflicts, but he has his work cut out reconciling the military with the rebels.
U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, a keen observer of Sudanese affairs and vocal critic of Bashir's Islamist regime, highlighted that pitfall in a statement on Wednesday.
"I look forward with hope to a transitional period that places the rights and aspirations of the Sudanese people front and centre," the Democrat said. "I have grave concerns, however, about whether military and political officials associated with the former regime will prove trustworthy partners given their history of violence, repression, corruption and bad faith." (AFP)