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Sudan's Months-Long Political Crisis Might be About to End

Military and civilian leaders announced a power sharing agreement after months of protests and violent crackdowns.

by Tim Hume
Jul 5 2019, 11:37am

Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in celebration Friday after the country’s military and civilian leaders announced a deal to share power until elections can be held, potentially offering a way out of a months-long political crisis.

Under the power-sharing deal, both sides agreed to form a sovereign council to run the country for a transitional period of just over three years, African Union mediator Mohamed Hassan Lebatt said at a press conference early Friday in the capital Khartoum. The military and civilian camps would each hold five seats on the council, with the eleventh seat given to a civilian agreed upon by both sides.

The deal will leave Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), in charge for the first 21 months, with a civilian-run administration then taking over for 18 months until elections are held, ushering in civilian rule. The leaders also agreed to set up an independent technocratic government, and launch an investigation into the bloody political violence of recent weeks, which has left scores dead.

Civilian leaders expressed cautious optimism that the deal would offer a way out of the crisis, and signal an end to military rule.

“We hope that this is the beginning of a new era,” said Omar al-Degair, one of the leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change coalition.

The country of 40 million has been mired in crisis since the military ousted former President Omar al-Bashir in April, following a popular uprising against his rule that started in December. But after toppling the brutal leader, who had ruled with an iron fist since 1989, the military maintained its grip on power, despite massive protests calling for a handover to civilian rule.

Negotiations over who would assume control of the country collapsed with a brutal military crackdown that began on June 3, leaving more than 120 civilians dead, according to opposition medics. Government officials put the death toll at 62.

Analysts hailed Friday’s deal as a significant development, but sounded a note of caution about whether the military would hand over power as promised. Many protesters were concerned about the possible presence of TMC deputy head General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo in the power-sharing government. Dagalo controls a feared paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces, that brutally dispersed an opposition sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum last month.

“This is not the finish line,” said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at International Crisis Group. He said the Transitional Military Council was “a bad faith actor, but also running out of wiggle room.”

“Pressure must continue — for days, weeks, years to come.”

Cover: Sudanese protesters flash victory signs and shout slogans, during a protest against the military council, in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, June 27, 2019. The U.S. envoy to Sudan has expressed America's support for the Sudanese protest movement and has called for a civilian-led government amid stalled negotiations between the pro-democracy leaders and the ruling military.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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Transitional Military Council
Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
Sudan uprising
Forces for Freedom and Change