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Sudan generals, protest camp sign accord on road to civilian rule

By AFP - Aug 04,2019 - Last updated at Aug 04,2019

KHARTOUM — Sudan's army rulers and protest leaders on Sunday signed a hard-won constitutional declaration that paves the way for a transition from August 18 to civilian rule following more than seven months of often deadly street rallies.

The agreement, signed at a ceremony in Khartoum, builds on a landmark July 17 power-sharing deal and provides for a joint civilian-military ruling body to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian government and parliament to govern for a three-year transition period.

Protest movement leader Ahmed Rabie and the deputy head of the ruling military council, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, signed the declaration at the ceremony attended by African Union and Ethiopian mediators.

"We turned a tough page of Sudan's history by signing this agreement," Daglo, who flashed a victory sign after making a short speech, told reporters.

The signing was met by a wave of applause in the hall as representatives from both sides shook hands.

Members of the protest umbrella group, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, broke into tears as they exchanged hugs. 

Crowds of jubilant Sudanese people gathered outside the hall chanted “blood for blood, our government is civilian” and “revolution, revolution”.

A formal signing in front of foreign dignitaries is to take place on August 17 — the date on which ousted president Omar Al Bashir is due to go on trial on corruption charges — another protest leader, Monzer Abu Al Maali, told AFP.

The next day, the generals and protest leaders are to announce the composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council, he said. 

“Members of the ruling sovereign council will be announced on August 18, the prime minister will be named on August 20 and cabinet members on August 28,” Abu al-Maali told AFP.

Sunday’s accord was the result of difficult negotiations between the leaders of mass protests which erupted last December against Bashir’s three-decade rule and the generals who eventually ousted him in April.

The talks had been repeatedly interrupted by deadly violence against demonstrators who have kept up rallies to press for civilian rule.

They were suspended for weeks after men in military uniform broke up a long-running protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum on June 3, killing at least 127 people, according to doctors close to the protest movement.

The protest movement has largely blamed irregulars of the powerful Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by Daglo, for deadly violence against demonstrators.

Protest leaders say the accord calls for the formation of an investigation committee into protest-related violence which, according to doctors, has cost more than 250 lives since December.

Under Sunday’s deal, RSF paramilitaries are to be integrated into the army chain of command.

Omar Hussein, a protester waving the Sudanese flag outside the negotiations hall, was overjoyed by the signing. 

“Now we can tell the martyrs that their blood was not wasted,” he said. 

Ibtisam Al Sanhouri, a legal affairs negotiator for the protest movement, said the constitutional declaration clears the way for a parliamentary system with a civilian prime minister.

The premier is to be nominated by the protest movement and confirmed by the new sovereign council, she said.

The protest movement would be allocated 201 of the 300 seats in the new parliament. 

Sudan’s Arab neighbours hailed the long-awaited deal. 

Egypt said it was “a significant step on the right track”, while the Saudi foreign ministry welcomed it as “a quantum leap that will transition Sudan to stability and security”.

In the UAE, minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said Sudan’s transition to civilian rule “turns the page” on Bashir and his Islamist allies.

The Arab League said the accord would “launch a new and important phase in line with the Sudanese people’s aspirations”.

On Sunday, Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir told reporters the signing of the deal would “end Sudan’s listing as a [state] sponsor of terrorism”.

Sudan has been on a US blacklist for decades over its alleged support of Islamist militants, a designation that has damaged the country’s economy and severely impeded foreign investment.

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