Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

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The ruling generals and protest leaders reached an agreement. (AFP)
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Sudanese women celebrate in Khartoum on Saturday after Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders reached a deal on the constitutional declaration. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2019

Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

  • An African Union envoy said the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration
  • The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests

CAIRO: The African Union envoy to Sudan said Saturday the pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council have finalized a power-sharing agreement.
Mohammed el-Hassan Lebatt told reporters that the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration outlining the division of power for a three-year transition to elections. He did not provide further details, but said both sides would meet later on Saturday to prepare for a signing ceremony.
The pro-democracy coalition issued a statement saying they would sign the document Sunday.
The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian 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.
The two sides reached a preliminary agreement last month following pressure from the United States and its Arab allies , amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite civil war.
That document provided for the establishment of a joint civilian-military sovereign council that would rule Sudan for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader would head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. There would also be a Cabinet of technocrats chosen by the protesters, as well as a legislative council, the makeup of which would be decided within three months.
Ebtisam Senhouri, a negotiator for the protesters, told a press conference that the pro-democracy movement would choose 67% of the legislative body, with the remainder chosen by political parties that were not part of Al-Bashir’s government. The military would select the defense and interior ministers during the transition.
The two sides had been divided over 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.
In June, security forces violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis.
Protest leader Omar Al-Dagir said the agreement announced Saturday would pave the way for appointments to the transitional bodies.
“The government will prioritize peace (with rebel groups) and an independent and fair investigation to reveal those who killed the martyrs and hold them accountable,” he said.
Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades. Al-Bashir, who was jailed after being removed from power, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide stemming from the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. The military has said he will not be extradited. Sudanese prosecutors have charged him with involvement in violence against protesters.

Sudan timeline: 7 months of demonstrations and violence

KHARTOUM: Here is an overview after the ruling generals and protest leaders on Saturday agreed on a constitutional declaration, hailed as a “victory” by demonstrators and paving the way for a promised transition to civilian rule.

● Dec. 19, 2018:  Rallies break out in various cities over a tripling of bread prices. They spread nationwide with protesters demanding that Bashir quit after three decades in power.

● April 6: Thousands set up camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Spurred by the uprising, the army ousts Bashir on April 11, putting military generals in charge. The umbrella protest movement demands power be handed over to a civilian government.

● April 27: Ruling generals and protest leaders agree to establish a joint civilian-military council to govern during a transition. But both sides want their representatives to be in the majority; they also disagree over whether the council should be headed by a soldier or a civilian.

● May 2-29: Demonstrators rally in Khartoum, saying the army is not serious about ceding power.  Pressure grows on the military leaders.

● June 3: Armed men in military fatigues move in on the protest camp at army headquarters to disperse the thousands participating in the two-month sit-in there. It is the start of a crackdown that goes on for several days.

SPEEDREAD

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.

● June 9-10: A nationwide campaign of civil disobedience paralyzes the country. There are more deadly clashes.

● June 30: Tens of thousands again rally against the ruling generals. Security forces are deployed en masse and police fire tear gas. Several people are killed.

●  July 3: Talks between the military rulers and protest leaders resume.

● July 5: They agree in principle on a new ruling council made up of six civilians and five representatives of the military. A general would take charge for the first 21 months of the transition and then a civilian for 18 months. Elections would follow. The power-sharing accord is signed by the two parties on July 17, with further talks planned to flesh out details.

● July 23: Hundreds of university students chanting “civilian rule” rally in Khartoum to demand justice for hundreds killed since demonstrations first erupted in December.

● July 28: There are protests in the capital calling for an independent probe into the deadly June raid.

● July 29: People take to the streets in the town of Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, over shortages of bread and fuel. A sniper opens fire on the crowd, killing five teenaged school students. A sixth person dies later. The deaths spark outrage nationwide, prompting demonstrations in Khartoum and other cities. Protest leaders call off talks planned for July 30 with the ruling generals. Bashir’s defense lawyer says on July 31 that the toppled leader will face trial on corruption charges on Aug. 17.

● Aug. 1: Talks between protest leaders and ruling generals resume. Two days later, the AU announces the two sides have reached a “full agreement” on the constitutional declaration, paving the way for transitioning to civilian rule. Thousands of jubilant Sudanese take to the streets of Khartoum to celebrate, expressing relief over the prospect of an end to months of demonstrations and political unrest.


Turkey-backed fighters retaliate against Syria-allied troops

Updated 50 sec ago

Turkey-backed fighters retaliate against Syria-allied troops

  • Renewed violence has undermined an already shaky cease-fire in place since March

BEIRUT: Syrian opposition groups lobbed hundreds of missiles and artillery rockets at government posts in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, in retaliation for a deadly attack that killed dozens of their fighters a day earlier.
The renewed violence has undermined an already shaky cease-fire in place since March that aimed to quell military operations and government troop advances in the overcrowded rebel enclave.
The Turkey-backed groups, operating under the umbrella of the National Front for Liberation, fired hundreds of artillery rounds and missiles since late Monday at government posts in territories adjacent to areas they control in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
A spokesman for the NFL, Naji Al-Mustafa, said the rebel’s military retaliation targeted and killed Russian officers in southern Idlib, as well as Syrian soldiers working in the area.
The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russia or Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded hundreds of projectiles lobbed by opposition fighters at nearly 20 government posts in different locations in southern Idlib, western Aleppo and the coastal province of Latakia. The Observatory said there were casualties but had no details.
Monday’s strike was the deadliest in Idlib since the Turkish-Russian-brokered truce there came into effect in March, raising fears that the truce could further fray. Some 1 million people were displaced by the last offensive inside the already packed enclave, home to over 3 million.
The airstrike on a rebel training camp near the border with Turkey killed more than 50 Turkish-backed fighters, according to one opposition spokesman, and wounded nearly as many, in one of the heaviest blows to the opposition’s strongest groups. The Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, put the toll at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded.
The camp, operated by Faylaq Al-Sham, an NFL faction, was hosting training sessions for new recruits. The NFL said a “large number” of fighters were killed, but declined to give details. It vowed retaliation and blamed Russia for the attack.
US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey said the escalation in Idlib in violation of the March cease-fire deal is “dangerous” and threatens to prolong the conflict and deepen the Syrian people’s suffering. Jeffrey said the UN-led political process is the only way to peace and stability in Syria.
“By continuing their quest for a military victory, the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are threatening the stability of the surrounding region,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “It is time for the Assad regime and its allies to end their needless, brutal war against the Syrian people.”
Russia and Turkey, although they support opposite sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, have worked together to maintain a cease-fire in the last enclave of Syria’s rebels. But the attack comes as relations between the two countries have shown signs of strain over Turkey’s increased military involvement in a region stretching from Syria to the Caucasus and the Mediterranean.