By Khaled Abdelaziz
June 14, 2010 (Khartoum) — Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Monday named his new coalition government, appointing Southerner Lual Acuek Deng to the new post of oil minister, according to a presidential order seen by Reuters.
It is likely to be Sudan’s last government ahead of a secession referendum due in January 2011 that could see the country’s oil-producing south split away to form Africa’s newest independent state.
The order from the president split Sudan’s former Ministry of Energy and Mining into three — with separate ministries for oil, mining and electricity combined with dams.
The appointments come seven weeks after Bashir, the only sitting head of state wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), held on to power in national elections.
Bashir, who rejects charges of ordering mass murder and other atrocities in war-torn western Darfur, secured a 68 percent majority in a poll marred by accusations of fraud and intimidation of voters.
Both the elections and the coming referendum were promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan’s mostly Muslim north and the South, where most follow traditional beliefs and Christianity.
The peace deal created a north-south coalition government including the south’s former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Sudan produces about 480,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Bashir this month said he would give the oil ministry to the SPLM to allay fears the south was not getting its fair share of oil revenues.
Sudan, which gets about 60 percent of its revenues from oil, is keen to diversify its economy into, among other areas, agriculture and gold mining.
Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) retains control of many of the most prominent ministries, including finance, defence and the interior, and takes on foreign affairs, previously held by the SPLM.
Former state minister of foreign affairs Ali Ahmed Karti was promoted to lead the ministry.
The new government is facing a host of challenges in the buildup to the referendum, including drought and a spike in violence in Sudan’s western Darfur conflict.
Northern and southern leaders have still not decided on the position of their shared border. Sudan’s parliament earlier on Monday also postponed a long-awaited decision on the membership of a commission to organise the referendum after MPs objected to one of the panel members.
"Enormous challenges await the new Government of National Unity," said John Prendergast of the U.S.-based enough pressure group in an email interview.
"Getting the border demarcated will be a huge undertaking. And negotiating the terms of wealth sharing after the referendum will be the principal tool for preventing a return to full-scale war between the north and south."
Most of Sudan’s proven oil reserves are found in the south. But analysts say southerners will have to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement with Khartoum if the south secedes, as the only pipelines currently pass through the north to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. (Writing and additional reporting by Andrew Heavens; editing by Andrew Roche).
Names of people who have been appointed in key ministerial posts are: