Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has appointed a prime minister for the first time since the post was abolished following a coup in 1989.
Bakri Hassan Saleh, 68, took the oath of office at the presidential palace in Khartoum on Thursday, a day after he was named as prime minister by the executive bureau of the president's National Congress Party (NCP).
A close confidante of Bashir, Saleh has served in several ministerial portfolios in the Sudanese government, including interior and defense. The army general, who is known as "Bashir's shadow," was head of Sudan’s all powerful National Security and Intelligence Service in the 1990s.
Saleh was an influential military officer in the 1989 coup which brought Bashir to power. He has been a key aide to Bashir and served as first vice-president, a post he will continue to occupy in the future.
The appointment is part of reforms proposed by a year-long national dialogue between the Sudanese government and some opposition groups.
Bashir, who has faced criticism over his way of dealing with dissent, concluded in October last year a national dialogue involving his government and several opposition groups. The main aim of the initiative is to resolve insurgency in Sudan's border regions and heal the country's crisis-wracked economy.
Bashir scrapped the post of prime minister after he launched the 1989 coup against then premier Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Lawmakers approved constitutional amendments last year while Mahdi returned to Sudan from a two-year exile last month. The post of prime minister was created by constitutional amendments.
Many say the appointment of a new prime minister would help Bashir revive his decades-old rule and give it a new look.
Khaled Tigani, a senior journalist, said Sudan would hardly differ under Saleh’s premiership as it would be a continuation of Bashir’s rule.
"General Bakri's appointment is broadly a continuation of Bashir's rule rather than a new chapter in Sudan's politics," he told AFP, adding, "But at the end of the day it depends on the leadership that General Bakri manages to show."
Saleh said in a brief statement after taking oath that his cabinet would represent various political forces.
“Our country is at a historic moment as it harmonizes all political parties and powers who participated in the national dialogue,” Saleh said.