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Sudan’s Military Council, Alliance for Freedom & Change stall 3-year transition period

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: May 22, 2019 - 11:06:55 AM

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Protesters hold a banner calling for the release of political prisoners, during a march by members of the Sudanese medical profession syndicate, at the sit-in inside the Armed Forces Square, in Khartoum, Sudan, April 17. A Sudanese official and a former minister said themilitary has transferred ousted President Omar al-Bashir to the city’s Kopar Prison in Khartoum. The move came after organizers of the street protests demanded the military move al-Bashir to an official prison.

Recent talks in Sudan that ended with an agreement for a three-year transition period toward civilian rule have been put on hold.

According to the Transitional Military Council, the ongoing talks with the opposition Alliance for Freedom and Change have been suspended for three days on May 15, Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan said, “to help prepare an atmosphere for completing the deal.”

Gen. al-Burham “accused demonstrators of breaking an understanding on the de-escalation process while talks were under way and said protesters were disrupting life in the capital by blocking roads outside a protest zone in a deal that they had made with the military,” reported Al- Jazeera.

Earlier, a spokesman for the opposition AFC told the AFP news agency, “The military council has told us that the protesters must dismantle the barricades and go back to the sit-in.”

Another opposition leader, Ahmed Rabie, confirmed the talks had been stalled, saying the military wants roads in Khartoum and elsewhere reopened before returning to the negotiating table, reported the BBC.

“The agreement between the signatories to the Declaration for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council in Khartoum has yet to be fleshed out,” said Khalil Charles, who is a former employee of the Sudan news service SUNA and currently works in Turkey for the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation.

The Financial Times reported the two parties reached an agreement that included a three-year transition to a fully civilian administration. The proposed deal has raised hopes that the democratic revolution many Sudanese have sought could succeed.

During an early morning May 15 joint press conference, the TMC said the deal would be signed within 24 hours. That was quickly called off and the deal was not signed. The proposed deal would include the formation of two ruling bodies, “a sovereign council and a 300-member legislature to run the country until elections are held,” reported the Financial Times.

The negotiations could have come to an end, when on May 13, at least six demonstrators were killed and over 200 wounded , said Sudanese protester Zakia Sadeeg via Whatsapp.“This appears designed to try and destroy the negotiations and put an end to the demonstration outside the military headquarters,” she wrote.

Al-Jazeera reported “the flare-up of violence came as the prosecutor general’s office said ousted President Omar al-Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during the mass protests that led to the end of his 30-year rule on April 11.”

During an overnight press briefing the TMC denied responsibility for firing on peaceful protestors. There are rogue elements that had made their way into the groups of protestors to cause trouble, the TMC said. Video footage revealed protesters vehemently denying this accusation, saying each protestor was searched before being allowed to enter the sit-in area outside of the military headquarters.

Charles, who has family living in Sudan, said, “It appears that rogue members of the military, the Rapid Support Units,” based on the kind of uniform they were wearing, were responsible for the violence.

“Elements within the army are really unhappy since the taking over of power within the Military Council. Those elements have so far been kept in check. But what happened … was a display of the potential of it getting out of hand. This was people taking it into their own hands to break up protestors.”

He continued, “What aggravated all of that was the protesters decided to widen the barricades, including, (not only) the road leading into the army headquarters, but also the entry roads.

“In particular, one major thoroughfare … the road that runs under a new bridge on Nile Street.”

According to Charles, “This is where most of the killings took place. A group of about 30 trucks trying to waylay the agreement.”

He said the incident has inflamed the situation and made people very angry. Sadeeg, a school teacher, actually emailed video footage taken on a cell phone to this reporter. On one video clip you see uniformed Rapid Support Units in vehicles running into blockades, and people having to get out of the way, for fear of being run over. Another clip shows protesters running while carrying bleeding comrades and trying to dodge the rapid fire of bullets. You can clearly hear shots fired in the background.

Charles said there is a growing distrust for the military. He mentioned incidents including electricity being periodically cut, and someone from the electric company told protestors that it was “deliberately cut.”

This goes back to the beginning of the demonstrations in front of the army headquarters.

In the beginning the African Union gave the TMC 15 days to hand over the government to a civilian council or be expelled from the AU. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who currently holds the AU rotating presidency, held a summit where he convinced other members of the AU to extend the TMC to three months, instead of 15 days.

Ahmed Soliman, an expert on Sudan at Chatham House, a UK think-tank, told the Financial Times, “I think this has been a big step forward … agreeing on a fixed timeline for the transition was vital.” But he cautioned that much remained to be done for the transition to succeed.

“There are still a lot of difficulties even once the government has been put together and there are lots of elements of the former regime that retain significant influence and could act as spoilers in this process,” he said.

The composition of the sovereign council still needs to be agreed upon. The protest movement is pushing for civilian leadership of all governing bodies, suspicious of the military leaders, most of whom had loyally served President Bashir for decades.

Charles said he’s “optimistic.” A recent piece he wrote on read: “For most Sudanese the peace agreement will be the beginning of a long road to build respect for and trust in authority.A lack of transparency and accountability, and broken promises can only serve to damage the attempt to create a united, diverse and more just society. However, long after a new government is elected, the Sudanese revolutionary experience and the chants and slogans of ‘houriyah, houriyah’ (freedom, freedom) will resonate in the ears of those bold enough to take a position in government during the transitional period. There is no doubt that the new Sudan will be watched closely by neighboring countries in Africa and across the Arab world.”

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