Sudan protesters, army announce new ruling body after deal

International

Sudanese pro-democracy supporters celebrate a final power-sharing agreement with the ruling military council Saturday, Aug 17, 2019, in the capital, Khartoum. The deal paves the way for a transition to civilian-led government following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. (AP Photo)

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and the army announced a joint ruling body on Tuesday, formally disbanding the military council that took power after the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April.

The new, 11-member body — called the Sovereign Council — is to rule Sudan for a little over three years until elections can be held. An announcement about the council was delayed by two days because of last-minute, internal disputes over the opposition appointees.

The military and protest leaders signed the final power-sharing deal Saturday, following pressure from the United States and its Arab allies, amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite a civil war.

Mass demonstrations initially erupted in Sudan in December over dire economic conditions but quickly turned into calls for al-Bashir to step down after three decades in power.

The military later overthrew the leader, but protesters have continued to take to the streets and demand a swift transition to civilian government, fearing the military could cling to power. The tortuous negotiations over the joint military and civilian council went on over the last few months despite a deadly security crackdown. At least 250 people have been killed protests began, according to organizers.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who chaired the military council, will lead the Sovereign Council for the first 21 months, council spokesman Lt. Gen. Shams el-Din Kabashi told a televised press conference in the capital, Khartoum.

A civilian leader appointed by the protest movement is to follow Burhan for the next 18 months, according to the deal.

Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, who served as deputy head of the military council, was also appointed to the new council along with Kabashi, Lt. Gen. Yasser Atta and Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Gaber, said the spokesman. All were members in the disbanded military council.

Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has consolidated power since al-Bashir’s overthrow, and is the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Protesters accuse the RSF of leading the crackdown against them since the brutal break-up of their sit-in camp in Khartoum earlier in June.

Among the five council members named by the pro-democracy movement are a woman and a journalist.

Both sides agreed on the appointment of a Coptic Christian judge, Raja Nicholas Issa, as the 11th member of the council. The council members will be sworn in before the country’s top judge and Burhan on Wednesday.

The deal also includes a protest movement-appointed Cabinet along with a legislative council with a majority from the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the main protest coalition. The legislative body is to assemble within three months.

Protest leaders have nominated a well-known economist, Abdalla Hamdok, to serve as prime minister during the transition. He has been the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa since November 2011.

Kabashi said Hamdok would be sworn in on Wednesday.

The military is to nominate the defense and interior ministers in the transitional government, according to the deal.

Sudan’s ailing economy and peace with armed groups remain among the top challenges facing the new administration.

Al-Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, had failed to keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse Sudan, losing three quarters of the country’s oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011 following a referendum. That loss of oil revenue plunged the economy into a protracted crisis that continues to this day.

Sudan has also been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades, and while a rebel alliance has joined the pro-democracy coalition, it said last week that it should be represented in the transitional government.

The power-sharing deal calls for the government to reach a peace agreement with the rebels within six months.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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