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Cablegate: President Bashir Reshuffles Cabinet: Ali Mardi Out, Al-Jaz

VZCZCXRO1392
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0241/01 0501433
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191433Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9982
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000241

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR ECON SOCI AU SU
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT BASHIR RESHUFFLES CABINET: ALI MARDI OUT, AL-JAZ
AND AL-ZUBEIR SWITCH PLACES

REF: KHARTOUM 147

1. (SBU) Summary: On February 14, President Bashir shifted more
than a quarter of ministerial positions in the cabinet of the
Government of National Unity (GNU). In particular, local observers
believe that Awad Al-Jaz' shift from Energy to Finance Ministry will
strengthen both his own influence and the performance of his new
ministry. Two of those demoted (from Finance and Interior) were
outspoken hardliners in the National Congress Party. End Summary.

2. (U) On February 14, President Omar Al-Bashir shuffled Sudan's
Council of Ministers, naming eight (out of a total of 30) new
cabinet ministers and four state ministers. Most significantly,
controversial Justice Minister Mohammed Ali Marhdi was removed from
the cabinet, Interior Minister al-Zubeir Bashir Taha (a particular
thorn in the side of the SPLM) was demoted to Agriculture, and
Finance Minister al-Hassan and Energy Minister Al-Jaz traded
positions. President Bashir stated that the reshuffle was intended
to reactivate the GNU as Sudan enters a period of political
activity, including elections scheduled for 2009.

3. (U) Cabinet and state minister appointments are listed below,
along with their previous positions:

Ministers:

Minister of Justice - Abdul Basit Salih Sabdarat (most recently
Minister of Federal Governance, Sabdarat served as Justice Minister
in 1998)

Minister of Interior - Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid (previously Governor of
Kassala state)

Minister of Finance and National Economy - Awad Ahmed Al-Jaz
(previously Minister of Energy and Mining)

Minister of Energy and Mining - al-Zubeir Ahmed al-Hassan
(previously Minister of Finance and National Economy)

Minister of Federal Governance - LTG Abdul Rahman Said (previously
Minister of Science and Technology)

Minister of Science and Technolgy - Ibrahim Ahmed Omer (previously
advisor to President Bashir on media matters)

Minister of Agriculture and Forestry - al-Zubeir Bashir Taha
(previously Minister of Interior)

Ministry Animal Resources and fisheries - Mohammed Ahmed al-Tahir
Abu Kalabish (previously State Minister of Education)

State Ministers:

State Minister of Investment - Salman Suleiman al-Safi (previously
State Minister of Foreign Trade)

State Minister of Foreign Trade - al-Semaih al-Saddiq (previously
State Minister of Investment)

State Minister of Health - Hassan Abu Ayesha (previous position
unknown)

State Minister of Higher education and Scientific Research - Fathi
Mohammed Khalifa (previously State Minister of Health)

4. (SBU) Ali Mardi has become the focus of criticism for the slow
pace with which the GNU has tackled legislative changes needed for
national elections in 2009 and required by the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement, notably a new National Security Law and the Police Law.
A member of the Umma Party, President Bashir's National Congress
Party may have regarded him as expendable. Sabdarat, his
replacement as Justice Minister, has a reputation for being
compliant, ambitious, and has served in various capacities in the
government since 1989. The now former Ministers of Finance
(Al-Hassan) and Interior (Taha) were outspoken hardliners who
frequently went beyond stated regime policy in criticizing the
United States and the NCP's partner in government, the SPLM.

FROM ENERGY TO FINANCE MINISTRY
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) On February 17, Abdelmoneim Mustafa El Amin, Executive
Secretary at the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) and

SIPDIS
former Sudanese Ambassador to Japan, told econoff that "This
re-shuffling is all that people have been talking about." El Amin

KHARTOUM 00000241 002 OF 002


was most interested in the changes to the Ministry of Energy and
Mining and the Ministry of Finance, saying that reforming the
Ministry of Finance is the most likely reason for the change. He
stated that "Al-Jaz's sphere of influence will expand while the
incompetent and noxious Zubair Al-Hassan will still be a figurehead.
Both ministries will be functionally controlled by Awad Al-Jaz."
El Amin added that other reasons, including a personal rivalry
between Al-Jaz and Al-Hassan may have been responsible the change.
According to El Amin, the position at the Ministry of Finance is
more important than the position at the Ministry of Energy and
Mining, and Al-Jaz is being rewarded for developing Sudan's
petroleum.

6. (U) Editorials and press reports agreed that Al-Jaz will reform
the Ministry of Finance. Muhammad Latif in "Al-Sudani" opened his
article stating, "The first joke to follow the announcement of a
cabinet reshuffle is 'After Al-Jaz extracted all of Sudan's oil, he
decided to move to the Ministry of Finance to control the oil
revenues!" According to Latif, the former Minister of Finance,
Zubair Al-Hassan, was known as someone who liked to please everyone
and that the Ministry of Finance was always full of people coming to
ask for special favors and requests. He said that Al-Jaz will end
that and make the Ministry of Finance a more efficient, modern, and
effective institution.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Al-Jaz's appointment as Finance Minister comes
after his successful tenure as Oil and Gas Minister and is the most
recent of several measures over the last two months -- including the
removal of an inefficient undersecretary and introduction of a
modern and transparent budget format (reftel) -- intended to
strengthen the Finance Ministry. However, this appointment will do
little to ease Southern suspicions of lack of transparency in
revenue sharing, as Al-Jaz now will be responsible for all of the
GoS's finances, rather than only oil revenues. The changes do seem
to decrease somewhat the power of some hardliners within the
cabinet, but there are many others within the Sudanese regime with
similar views.

FERNANDEZ

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