Asma Mohamed Abdalla is pictured during a meeting in Khartoum on Monday. Agence France-Presse
Asma Mohamed Abdalla, a seasoned diplomat who was sacked decades ago by now ousted leader Omar Al Bashir, has become Sudan’s first female foreign minister as the country transitions to civilian rule.
Born in 1946, Abdalla was sworn in on Sunday as a member of the country’s new 18-member cabinet, the first since Bashir was overthrown by the army in April.
Bashir, who had seized power in a coup in 1989, was deposed following months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule.
Dressed in a white traditional Sudanese tobe and wearing spectacles, Abdalla took the oath as foreign affairs minister at the presidential palace along with 17 other ministers.
The swearing-in ceremony was held in the presence of members of the joint civilian-military ruling sovereign council, including its chief General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan.
The sovereign council will oversee a 39-month transition period as Sudan embarks on the road to civilian rule, the main demand of protesters.
Abdalla, whose studies were partly in the United States, was one of the first three women to join Sudan’s foreign ministry as a diplomat after graduating from Khartoum University in 1971 with a degree in economics and political science.
But she was sacked in 1991 by the then administration of Bashir, who had seized power two years before in a coup. Abdalla’s appointment is part of new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s plan to have a government made up of technocrats and one that reflects gender balance.
Hamdok himself is a seasoned economist who built a career in international organisations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.
“By having women ministers like Asma Mohamed Abdalla, Sudan is putting across a positive image to the world,” a European diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“Sudan is showing that it is changing... and is no more a pariah state as it was during the Bashir years.” Decades of sanctions imposed by Washington on Khartoum had isolated Sudan from the international community.
The sanctions, imposed in 1997, were lifted in October 2017 but Washington has kept Sudan on its list of alleged state sponsors of terrorism, making foreign investors wary of doing business with the African country.