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Africa Briefing on the ball

As we have just reported, the Sudanese army has decided to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. In our current edition, which was published before the announcement in Khartoum, Africa Briefing Editor Desmond Davies wrote a prescient Column pointing out that it was foolhardy of the soldiers to oust a leader with impeccable credentials. We publish the Column below

THE soldiers in Sudan are up to their old tricks again. In October, the army men who were actually part of a power-sharing civilian/military administration headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok decided to grab power for themselves.

They did not even give Hamdok a chance to show the Sudanese people what he could do after 30 years of military dictator Omar al Bashir who was ousted in 2019. Hamdok was a Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa when he was whisked to Khartoum to head the post-al Bashir administration.

This was a strategically sound move. Having met him and interviewed him, I know that he was a good choice as leader of a rather jaded Sudan. A country that had been battered from pillar to post by the international community because of human rights and war crimes issues.

Apart from that, after the independence of South Sudan the country lost a huge chunk of its territory and a massive amount of oil reserves that went to the South. But Hamdok was ready to take up the challenge of reviving a moribund country.

As I write this, the negotiations are continuing to resolve this rather unseemly behaviour by the Sudanese soldiers. An act that is so odious, even by their own base standards.

Hamdok was the best thing to happen to Sudan when he was asked to become Prime Minister two years ago. In 2016, I attended a conference in Addis Ababa organised by Wilton Park, a UK government-funded strategic forum focusing on international security, prosperity and justice. The meeting was the second organised by Wilton Park on peacebuilding in Africa.

Today, election is the name of the game, and no coup can survive

Hamdok was there. He grabbed my attention whenever he intervened during the discussions. While the academics present were skirting around the issues, Hamdok was straight to the point. He didn’t mince his words as he presented his vision for a conflict-free and prosperous Africa.

I liked his ideas. So, when we had a break, I asked him whether I could interview him for my podcast, Talking Africa, for the African Leadership Centre’s Pan-African Radio, of which I am one of the editors.

The 30-minute interview gave Hamdok the chance to expand on the ideas he had contributed during the conference. It was a rich discussion.

Naturally, the issue of lifting Africans out of poverty was my first question, given his senior role at the ECA. I mentioned the fact that at the turn of the century Africa was recording five per cent economic growth, which should at least help to lift people out of poverty.

Hamdok agreed that it was a “remarkable success”. But he was not sure that this was making a difference to the lives of ordinary Africans.

He told me that this growth “has an extremely important challenge to its quality. It has not addressed issues of reducing poverty, addressing unemployment. And in fact, in many places it might have contributed to inequality”.

Hamdok went on: “So what is important for us moving forward is to address the quality of this growth, in the sense that we would like to see growth that contributes jobs, particularly decent jobs. And this can only happen if you address this through industrialisation, through value addition that would create those decent jobs and embrace the broader agenda of Africa’s transformation.”

On the issue of leadership in Africa, Hamdok acknowledged it was “a key factor in the development process…”, adding: “We need, in Africa, leadership that is committed, visionary; leadership that has a project for society, where it takes development as a key leading parameter, and development becomes hegemonic in the sense that society at large takes it and runs with it.

“And in that sense, it transcends an individual. So, once you lay the foundation for this, and the nation takes off, then it becomes a society project,” Hamdok added.

Yes, indeed, Hamdok is not one of the many individualistic leaders in Africa who do not know whether they are coming or going. He recognised that development in Africa would only be achieved when members of society as a whole – especially young people – are fully involved.

Hamdok wants youngsters in Africa to be given space to prosper. “This is the future of the continent. If you look around. the average age of the leadership on this continent is over 65, probably 70.

“This cannot take us anywhere. The future of this continent is going to be led by these young people So we have to nurture them. We have to give them the opportunity to develop,” Hamdok said, adding that the youth had “very bright ideas”.

It’s not surprising that it’s young Sudanese who are leading the protests against the rebellious soldiers. They would do well to reinstate the ousted Prime Minister.

As Hamdok told me five years ago, in the previous 30 years there was a proliferation of military dictatorships in Africa. This was no longer the case, he added. “Today, election is the name of the game, and no coup can survive.”

Let’s see what the soldiers do.

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