Sudan's military and civilian leaders seal 'full agreement' on power-sharing deal

Document will support agreement on military-civilian rule during a three-year transition period

African Union mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt (L) and Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir give a press conference at the African Union offices in Khartoum on July 31, 2019. Lebatt and Drir denounced the killings of six protesters including five pupils in Al-Obeid. / AFP / Ebrahim HAMID

Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders have reached a “full agreement” on a constitutional declaration after lengthy negotiations, paving the way for a new transitional government, the African Union said on Saturday.

The announcement comes after months of unrest following the fall of the country’s longtime leader Omar Al Bashir.

The military overthrew Al Bashir in April following months of mass protests against his three-decade-long rule. The protesters remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to a civilian government. They have been locked in tense negotiations with the military for weeks while holding mass protests.

Thousands of jubilant Sudanese took to the streets of the capital Khartoum when the deal was announced before dawn to celebrate the prospect of a civilian government.

The declaration builds on a landmark power-sharing deal signed on July 17 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.

The agreement, which outlines the shape of the transitional government, was brokered by the AU and neighbouring Ethiopia in talks that were sometimes suspended because of street violence in Khartoum and other cities.

"I am announcing to the Sudanese, African and international public opinion that the two delegations have fully agreed on the constitutional declaration," AU mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt told reporters.

He did not provide further details, but said both sides would meet later on Saturday to prepare for a signing ceremony. He said further meetings would be held to work out the technical details of the deal and discuss the signing ceremony.

An initial inking of the agreement is expected to take place on Sunday, protest leaders said, ahead of a formal signing in front of foreign dignitaries.

The main opposition coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), welcomed the agreement as a "first step with more to follow" and pledged to complete the journey to "freedom, peace and justice" in Sudan.

On Saturday, the Arab League hailed the agreement, saying the signing of the constitutional declaration "would launch a new and important phase in line with the Sudanese people's aspirations".

Demonstrators among the crowds that took to the streets in the early hours hailed victory in their struggle for a new Sudan.

"For us, the revolution succeeded now and our country set foot on the road towards civilian rule," said 25-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim as he joined the cavalcade of vehicles that criss-crossed the streets of Khartoum, horns blazing.

Fellow protester, Somaiya Sadeq, said she hoped there would now be justice for those who had given their lives.

"We have been waiting for a civilian state to seek fair retribution from the murderers of our sons," she said.

The declaration also envisages the appointment of a 300-member legislative assembly to serve during the transitional period. The FFC would have 67 per cent of its seats and other political groups not associated with Bashir would have the rest.

Once the transitional government – or sovereign council – starts work, Sudan embarks on a three-year transition period expected lead to elections.

The negotiators agreed last month that the sovereign council would have 11 members five officers selected by the military council, five civilians chosen by the FFC and another civilian to be agreed upon by both sides. Its first leader will be from the military.

When the sovereign council is formed, the country's current ruling body, a transitional military council headed by General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and his deputy, RSF commander General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, will be dissolved.

A top priority for the transitional government during its first six months in power will be working towards peace with a number of armed groups active in the southern and western regions of the country, Satea al-Hajj, an FFC negotiator, said on Saturday.

Three of those armed groups are members of the FFC under the umbrella of the Revolutionary Front.

The talks 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. An official investigation by the ruling military leaders said that 87 people were killed.

The two sides also remained divided on a number of issues, including whether military leaders would be immune from prosecution over recent violence against protesters. It was not immediately clear whether they had resolved that dispute.

The two sides came under renewed pressure this week after security forces opened fire on student protesters in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead. At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support forces were arrested over the killings.

"An investigation has been launched into the incident of Al-Obeid and seven members of the RSF were immediately dismissed and handed over to civilian judges for trial," General Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman for the ruling military council, told reporters earlier on Friday.

He also said that measures will be taken against those responsible for Thursday's violence.