Sudan’s army chief Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok signed a deal on Sunday to end the political crisis that has engulfed the country since the military seized power last month and upended its transition to democracy.
Under the agreement, Mr Hamdok will lead a government of independent technocrats, and a power-sharing agreement reached in August 2019 between the military and the Forces of Freedom and Change, a pro-democracy movement, will remain the main term of reference for a new military-civilian partnership.
The agreement also provides for the release of civilian members of the deposed transitional government and the scores detained by the military in the four weeks since the coup.
The FFC and another pro-democracy movement, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, both key players in the 2018-2019 uprising that toppled dictator Omar Al Bashir, swiftly rejected the deal.
Some of the neighbourhood resistance committees that mobilised anti-Bashir protests, a role they played again in recent weeks against the coup, also rejected the deal.
They want the military to leave politics altogether and for those behind last month’s coup to be tried for toppling a legitimate government and for the killing and injuring of unarmed protesters.
Mr Hamdok said the deal was “the fruition of continuous work lasting three or four weeks by those who care about this nation from among friends and partners in both our region and internationally”.
“We are prepared to work together so this country can move forward,” he said during the brief televised ceremony in which the deal was announced.
Gen Al Burhan, the army chief and coup leader, also addressed the ceremony.
“We have been able to genuinely lay the foundation of a transitional period that reflects our aspirations and those of the Sudanese people,” he said.
Alluding to differences between the military and its civilian partners in the run-up to the October 25 coup, he said: “That deadlock obliged us to halt the transitional process and reconsider.”
Mr Hamdok was placed under house arrest after the coup. His office said earlier on Sunday that restrictions on his movement had been lifted and the military detail guarding his residence had left.
Several mediation attempts to end the crisis had stalled, but a pressing need to halt violence – at least 40 protesters were killed and hundreds injured during near daily street rallies against the coup – may have been the main catalyst for the political deal.
“Sudanese blood is precious. Let us stop the bloodshed and direct the youth’s energy into building and development,” Mr Hamdok said.
Gen Al Burhan said the agreement would stop the spilling of Sudanese blood.
In rejecting the deal, the FFC, a loose alliance of pro-democracy groups that served as the power base and political sponsor of Mr Hamdok’s government, said it would stand by its previous position of “no negotiations, no partnership and no legitimacy with the coup [organisers]”.
“The crimes of overthrowing a legitimate government, staging a coup against the constitution, killing peaceful revolutionaries, forced disappearances, excessive use of force and other documented crimes must be addressed in immediate trials for the leaders of the coup, opportunists and remnants of the former regime [of Al Bashir],” it said.
The FFC was the civilian party that signed a power-sharing agreement with the military in August 2019 after the removal four months earlier of Al Bashir.
That deal provided the constitutional basis of the transition to democratic rule that was derailed by the coup. Sunday’s deal provides for amending that charter by consensus between civilians and the military.
Since the military takeover on October 25, Gen Al Burhan has said he had no quarrel with Mr Hamdok, a career UN economist.
He said he appreciated the economic reform programme introduced by Mr Hamdok, which was beginning to bring down inflation after it reached 400 per cent.
But he said the takeover was motivated by a desire to prevent Sudan from sliding into civil war.
Gen Al Burhan has called the move “a correction” to the transition to democracy following Al Bashir’s removal from power in April 2019.
The military ousted Al Bashir after months of street protests against his rule led by political parties, professional unions and grassroots committees working together under the umbrella of the FFC and the Sudanese Professionals’ Association.
The military-civilian government was an uneasy union and tension simmered between the sides, before boiling over into public mudslinging after a failed coup in September.
When the military seized power last month, Gen Al Burhan dismissed Mr Hamdok’s government and declared a state of emergency.
He detained several Cabinet members and ordered the arrest of dozens of activists, trade and professional union leaders, journalists and politicians.
Gen Al Burhan also repealed sections of the power-sharing deal in which the FFC is mentioned as the military’s governing partner.
The takeover was condemned around the world, with major donors such as the US and World Bank suspending aid to Sudan worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The coup and the military’s heavy-handed response to the protests have hardened the position of the country’s pro-democracy movement.
“We reject the deal of treachery signed by Hamdok and Al Burhan in its entirety. It only concerns them,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said.
“It’s just an attempt to legitimise the coup and the authority of the military council. It’s also political suicide for Abdalla Hamdok.”
Protesters barricaded most of the streets in Khartoum Bahri overnight in anticipation of clashes with security forces.
The area, one of the three that make up greater Khartoum, was home to most of the 15 demonstrators killed by security forces during rallies across Khartoum on Wednesday, the deadliest day of clashes since the military takeover.
On Sunday, a protester, 16, was killed by a gunshot to the head in the Khartoum area of Umm Durman, according to a doctors' association linked to the pro-democracy movement.
There were other anti-military protests elsewhere in Khartoum on Sunday, as well as in the city of Kassala in eastern Sudan and Atbara, a hotbed of dissent north of Khartoum.