Sudan protesters cancel marches in wake of agreement

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Sudanese people celebrate in the streets of Khartoum after ruling generals and protest leaders announced they have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body on Friday, July 5, 2019. The deal raised hopes it will end a three-month political crisis that paralyzed the country and led to a violent crackdown that killed scores of protesters. (AP Photo)
KHARTOUM, Sudan (Associated Press) — Sudan’s pro-democracy movement on Saturday abandoned plans for marches next week, after it reached a power-sharing deal with the ruling military council following a weekslong standoff over the role of the army in the transition.

Both sides agreed on Friday to form a joint military and civilian sovereign council to lead the country during a transition period of three years and three months, sparking street celebrations in the capital of Khartoum and other cities across the county.

Rebel groups, however, slammed the long-waited deal as a “betrayal of the revolution” that led to the military ouster of autocratic President al-Bashir in April amid nationwide protests against his nearly three decades of rule.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, vowed Saturday to “protect and implement” the deal. He said the military council would work closely with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters in negotiations, and other political forces “to build and protect” the country and to “achieve peace and justice.”

The FDFC abandoned previously announced marches next week on the 40-days anniversary of a deadly beak-up of their protest sit-in outside the military headquarters on June 3.

Earlier this week, the FDFC had called for marches in Khartoum and elsewhere on July 13 and for a general strike and civil disobedience the following day.

The new schedule included meetings, workshops and campaigns across the country. The FDFC said it was “an initial part of a comprehensive action plan” aimed at rooting out members of the al-Bashir regime.

Sudanese rebel groups criticized the power-sharing deal, which came after intensive efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia.

A faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Minni Minnawi, said Friday a peace deal had to be reached with rebel groups before embarking on the deal’s planned transition.

Another faction of the SLM, led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, slammed the deal as a “betrayal of the revolution.”

The SLM — then fighting an insurgency in the Darfur region — split into rival factions in 2004. Minnawi has joined a political coalition with the protesters, while al-Nur refused to take part in the movement.

The FDFC said Friday they would work to establish peace with rebel groups during the first six months of the transitional period. Earlier this week, the military council had agreed with Minnawi to extend a cease-fire and start peace talks.

The power-sharing deal was meant to end a weekslong political deadlock between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed the Khartoum sit-in, killing more than 100 people since then, according to protest organizers.

In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.

They resumed negotiations on Wednesday after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Sudan’s main cities last weekend in the biggest demonstrations since the sit-in camp was razed. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.

After two-day intense talks, both sides agreed to form a joint military and civilian sovereign council to lead the country during a transition period of three years and three months. The joint council had been a sticking point in the negotiations.

The council will include five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat will go to a civilian chosen by both sides. A military member will preside over the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian member after that, according to the statement.

That suggested a significant concession by pro-democracy forces, which had insisted that the sovereign council have only a civilian president. But the deal also secured a key demand by protest leaders: that they select the members of a technocratic Cabinet to be formed independently from the generals.

The creation of a legislative council will be postponed for three months, during which time the sovereign council will make the nation’s laws.

The U.S. said Saturday in a statement that it welcomed the progress in negotiations “which we hope will lead to the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government that is broadly acceptable to the Sudanese people.”
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