Military council and opposition sign deal.

[Original story appeared in AL JAZEERA NEWS 17 Aug 2019]

Sudan‘s main opposition coalition and the ruling military council have formally signed a final power-sharing deal, paving the way for a transition to a civilian-led government.

The landmark agreement signed on Saturday in the capital Khartoum came after a long period of negotiations following the overthrow of longtime leader President Omar al-Bashir in the wake of mass protests.

The agreement, brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia, has been welcomed with relief by both sides [AFP]

The deal was inked between Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chief of the Transitional Military Council (TMC), and Ahmed al-Rabie, who represented the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group.

The ceremony was attended by heads of states, prime ministers and dignitaries from several countries, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

What the deal means

The power-sharing deal creates a joint military and civilian sovereign council to rule for a little over three years until elections can be held.

Under the agreement, a military leader would head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. It would also establish a cabinet appointed by the activists and a legislative body.

Sudan’s sovereign council would include TMC head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the deputy Dagalo and Lieutenant General Yasser Al-Atta, the TMC’s spokesperson told Sky News Arabia.

Under a power-sharing agreement, the sovereign council would include five members selected by the TMC, five picked by the main opposition coalition, and one agreed upon by both sides.

The military’s two remaining members would be named at a later time, Shams El Din Kabbashi said.

The deal also included the establishment of an independent investigation into the crackdown on protesters by the security forces.

In June, troops violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis.

Mixed Reactions

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said there were mixed reactions to the agreement. 

“People at the venue where the agreement [was] signed are excited, they were chanting even before this agreement was signed. They are saying that they finally have a civilian government,” Morgan said.

“But in the streets … people say they are cautiously optimistic. They are worried that the military council may delay the implementation of some clauses, and therefore will hold on to power longer, or will find a way to push the civilians out of power, and will continue maintaining control of the government until elections are held,” she added. 

Meanwhile, thousands of people arrived on trains from Sudan’s provinces to take part in the celebrations, which included a huge gathering in Khartoum’s main gardens.

“We hope Sudan can move forward now, we want to be proud of our country,” said Saida Khalifa, as she got off the train after an all-night ride from Atbara, the town where the protests started in December last year.

“The guns must go silent now and we must pull the country out of this mess to gain peace and freedom,” she said.

Abdelwahab El-Affendi, a professor at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, called the deal “positive news” which “should be celebrated”. But he said the civilian government would face major challenges ahead.  

“People have been waiting for this moment for a long time. [And] they expect that the next morning, when the prime minister sits in office, things will change,” El-Affendi said.

“Of course, that’s not going to be the case simply because the demonstrations have also brought the state capacity down, the economy has been eroded, and the state’s capacity to intervene has been reduced.”

Sudanese protesters from the city of Atbara arrive at the Bahari station in Khartoum [Ahmed Mustafa /AFP]

After weeks of tense negotiations, Sudan’s TMC and protest leaders reached a preliminary agreement earlier this month following international pressure and concerns that the political crisis could ignite civil war.

The constitutional declaration deal reached on August 4 brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilise against al-Bashir, who was removed in April after 30 years in power.

The agreement, brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia, was welcomed with relief by both sides.

Protesters celebrated what they saw as the victory of their “revolution”, while the generals took credit for averting a civil war.

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