October 20, 2019

Military and Civilian Leaders in Sudan Inch Forward With Political Deal

Military and Civilian Leaders in Sudan Inch Forward With Political Deal

Sudan’s ruling military council and pro-democracy movement signed a political document on Wednesday that formalized the broad outlines of a power-sharing deal announced this month. But key details of the deal, including the powers of a transitional ruling council, have yet to be agreed on.

The two sides, which have been wrestling for control of Sudan since the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April, signed the document early Wednesday at a hotel in the capital, Khartoum, after a night of talks led by African Union mediators.

Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, known as Hemeti, signed the deal for the military. General Hamdan, the deputy leader of the ruling military council, commands a powerful paramilitary group that led a violent dispersal of pro-democracy protesters on June 3, and has since emerged as one of the most influential figures in Sudan.

The fraught power-sharing talks have been marred by delays and distrust. Yet the agreement signed on Wednesday signaled that Sudan’s shaky transition to democracy remained on track, after a three-month confrontation between military and civilian leaders that involved huge street protests, tense negotiations and military-led violence that killed scores of people.

After they helped oust Mr. al-Bashir on April 11, protesters refused to leave the streets until the military agreed to completely hand over power to a civilian-led administration. The standoff ended on June 3 when paramilitaries from General Hamdan’s paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces, swept through the protest area and opened fire on protesters.

Doctors said that at least 128 people were killed in the rampage, during which bodies were dumped in the Nile and many people were raped. The government acknowledged 61 deaths, including three soldiers.

Weeks later, mediators from Ethiopia and the African Union, with backing from Western and Persian Gulf countries, brought the two sides together for new talks that led to the power-sharing deal announced on July 4.

Since then, the two sides have been hammering out the fine details of the deal amid considerable mutual distrust.

Protest leaders are uncomfortable with the prominence of General Hamdan and his Rapid Support Forces, which have emerged as the dominant group in a byzantine security apparatus that under Mr. al-Bashir included military units, security agencies and semiofficial militias.

The deal signed on Wednesday confirmed the broad strokes of the agreement reached on July 4 — that Sudan would be run during a transition period of just over three years by a sovereign council comprising five military members, five civilians and an 11th member agreed on by both sides.

A military general would lead the council for the first 21 months of the transition, and a civilian leader for the following 18 months.

But the powers of the sovereign council have not yet been decided. They are expected to be included in a second constitutional agreement that mediators said could be signed as early as Friday.

The document signed on Wednesday provided for an “independent investigation committee” into the violence on June 3 but did not specify the composition of that committee. It said only that the committee could seek help from the African Union.

The two sides are also at odds over the composition of a transitional legislative council. The military originally agreed to a legislative council with two-thirds of its members nominated by the Forces for Freedom and Change, the coalition representing pro-democracy groups, but later changed its mind.

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