Sudan’s premier sacks provincial governor after protests

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s prime minister on Tuesday sacked the governor of an eastern province, less than three months after his appointment, the state-run news agency reported.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s decision to fire Saleh Ammar, newly appointed governor of Kassala province, came amid sporadic protests against his appointment — protests that at times have turned deadly.

Ammar was named governor of Kassala in July, when Hamdok appointed civilian governors for the country’s 18 provinces. The move was seen at the time as a key step forward in Sudan’s transition to democracy.

But the protesters, who opposed his appointment on tribal grounds, barred Ammar from entering Kassala, so he remained in the capital, Khartoum. The protests escalated in August, when at least five people were killed and over three dozen were wounded.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. A military-civilian government now rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022.

Ammar had claimed, without offering evidence, that supporters of al-Bashir were behind the protests. The prime minister did not immediately name a replacement for Ammar.

Later Tuesday, Ammar’s sacking triggered new protests in Kassala. Footage circulated online showing protesters blocking roads and setting tires ablaze. No casualties were reported.

The Beni Amer tribe, from which Ammar hails, rejected his dismissal. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Several activists also criticized the sacking, warning of widespread chaos in eastern Sudan amid tribal tensions. Award-winning novelist Hamour Zyada said the decision showed the transitional government’s weakness in fighting those who opposed Ammar’s appointment.

Elsewhere in Sudan, more than 4,500 people in South Darfur province have been displaced in the past week by ongoing clashes between factions of a rebel group boycotting a recent peace deal between the transitional government and a rebel alliance, according to the U.N. migration agency.

The fighting between factions of the Sudan Liberation Army–Abdel-Wahid Nour erupted earlier this month in the Sharg al-Jabal area, the International Organization for Migration said.

The transitional government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a coalition of several armed groups, singed a peace deal earlier this month, capping torturous talks that had been underway in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, since late last year.

Abdel-Wahid’s group rejects the transitional government and has not taken part in the talks. It criticized the deal, saying it was “not different from” other previous deals that did not end the wars.

Sudan’s largest single rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, was involved in the talks but has yet to reach a deal with the government.