Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir’s appointment as vice president of a former military officer who helped him seize power a quarter-century ago strengthens the country’s army against Islamists who may threaten his rule, according to Magdi El Gizouli at the Rift Valley Institute.
The choice of Bakri Hassan Saleh, a lieutenant general who participated in the coup that overthrew Sudan’s democratically elected government in 1989, may also reduce army concern that Sudan could face a succession crisis if Bashir steps down, Gizouli said.
Saleh’s appointment “assures the army that if anything happens this is the man to take over,” Gizouli, a fellow at the Nairobi-based institute, said by phone yesterday from Freiburg, Germany.
Saleh, a former presidential affairs minister, replaces Ali Osman Taha, who signed the 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan’s two-decade civil war. Hasabo Abdel-Rahman, who served as federal governance minister, will be second vice president, Nafie Ali Nafie, deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party, or NCP, told reporters in Khartoum yesterday.
The changes come as Sudan’s government faces dissent in the wake of September protests in which Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group, said more than 200 people were killed. Former presidential adviser Ghazi Salaheddine Atabani and other former NCP supporters plan a new political party.
The weekend’s change in government wasn’t “due to disputes,” Bashir told a rally by supporters in the capital, Khartoum, on Dec. 7. “We want to push a group of youth and prepare them” to lead the country, he said.
The army fears Bashir’s surrender of power may lead to “surrendering a lot of people to the court,” Gizouli said.
Taha, who headed an Islamist council formed to support Bashir’s government after he took power, was the “last veteran” of the movement in office. Sidelining him is reminiscent of Bashir’s removal of Sudan’s most prominent Islamist theoretician, Hassan al-Turabi, from his role as head of parliament in 1999, Gizouli said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ahmed Feteha in Khartoum at firstname.lastname@example.org