Sudan's Bashir sacks foreign minister after he says money has run out

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Ghandour complained that Khartoum was unable to pay rent for several diplomatic missions amid government cash shortfall

'The situation has now turned dangerous,' Ibrahim Ghandour says of cash crisis (AFP)
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Friday 20 April 2018 8:59 UTC
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Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir on Thursday fired his foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, state media reported, after he said that the country's diplomats stationed abroad had not been paid for months.

In a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday, Ghandour - who negotiated the lifting of decades-old sanctions with Washington in October - said his ministry had been unable to pay rent for several Sudanese diplomatic missions amid a government cash shortfall.

Sudan has experienced an acute shortage of hard foreign currency as the African country's economic crisis has worsened.

"For months Sudanese diplomats have not received salaries and there is also a delay in paying rent for diplomatic missions," Ghandour told lawmakers, without specifying which ones.

The funds requested by the foreign ministry amount to less than $30m, he said, the first public comment by a Sudanese government official on the central bank's inability to provide foreign currency to cover state affairs.

"The situation has now turned dangerous, which is why I am talking about it publicly," he said.

Ghandour said there was a feeling among some government officials that paying wages to diplomats and rent for diplomatic missions were not a priority.

"Some ambassadors and diplomats want to return to Khartoum now... because of the difficulties faced by them and their families," Ghandour said on Wednesday.

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Sudan has been largely cut off from international financing in the past decades by US sanctions, some of which were lifted last year.

Officials have been trying to attract investors to help prop up the economy, which has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011. That cost Sudan three-quarters of its oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income.

The central bank has for years avoided releasing information about its foreign currency holdings.

Although Washington lifted the sanctions, it has kept Khartoum on a list of "state sponsors of terrorism," which makes it difficult for Sudan to access international loans and aid, officials say.

Protests erupted in January after prices of food items, mainly bread, more than doubled.

The anti-government rallies were quickly curbed by security forces amid a crackdown that saw several top opposition leaders and hundreds of protesters arrested.

Most of the detainees have now been freed after Bashir ordered their release.