Sudan generals and protesters sign deal paving way for civilian rule
Sudan's ruling generals and protest leaders signed a hard-won constitutional declaration on Sunday, paving the way for a transition to civilian rule after more than seven months of demonstrations and violence.
Under the agreement, signed at a ceremony in the capital Khartoum, a joint civilian-military ruling body will oversee the formation of a civilian government and parliament to govern for a three-year transition period.
The declaration was the result of fraught negotiations between the leaders of mass protests, which erupted last December against the three-decade rule of president Omar al-Bashir, and the generals who ousted him in April.
It builds on a July 17 power-sharing deal between the two sides.
Protest movement leader Ahmed Rabie and the deputy head of the ruling military council General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo signed the declaration at a ceremony attended by African Union and Ethiopian mediators.
The women of Sudan's protests
Women have been the driving force behind the months of protest that resulted in the ousting of Sudan's long-term president, Omar al-Bashir, in a coup d'état. They continue to protest for peaceful change and are willing to accept great hardships along the way.
Alaa Salah, the woman who became famous worldwide when an image of her leading chants to a crowd went viral
The woman who came back: Khadija Saleh lived abroad for six years. She returned to her native country in March in order to take part in the protests for a new Sudan. "I left my safe place because I want a better future for this country," says the 41-year-old.
The activist: when security forces violently broke up a protest camp close to the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum on 3 June, 53-year-old Nahid Gabralla was beaten and threatened with rape. "My daughter deserves to live in a good country. That is why we are fighting for a democratic Sudan."
The supporter: Hadia Hasaballah works for an NGO that supports victims of the violence that took place on 3 June. Eye witnesses and activists have reported that women were sexually abused on that day. There is no official confirmation that these acts were perpetrated. "No Sudanese woman will openly admit that she was raped because of the stigma attached" says Hasaballah.
The silent warrior: during the Bashir era, there were strict moral codes for women. They could be arrested simply for wearing trousers. Mahi Aba-Yazid was wearing trousers when she was in the protest camp in Khartoum. She too was beaten. The 35-year-old believes that the reason was more the clothes she was wearing and less her devotion to the cause
The independently minded woman: "I don't want to wear a headscarf, but it is not my decision," says 23-year-old student Duha Mohmed. She would like to have the right to wear what she likes. This was one of the reasons she took part in the protests.
The optimist: Nagda Mansour spent 75 days in prison because she took part in a demonstration in December. The 39-year-old translator finds it problematic to negotiate with the military about change because of the army's role in the war in Darfur. Nevertheless, she considers the agreement to initially share power with the military to be "a beginning, not the end."
The mother: shocked by the violence, Manal Farah asked her son not to take part in the protests. The 22-year-old student was killed. When he started university, her son began to ask why there was so much corruption in Sudan. He felt passionately that change was necessary for a new Sudan. "I pray that my son's dreams will come true."
"We turned a tough page of Sudan's history by signing this agreement," Daglo, who flashed a victory sign after making a short speech, told reporters.
The signing was met by applause in the hall as representatives from both sides shook hands.
Members of the protest umbrella group, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, broke into tears as they exchanged hugs.
Crowds of jubilant Sudanese gathered outside the hall, chanting "blood for blood, our government is civilian" and "revolution, revolution".
In the Bahari district of north Khartoum, dozens were chanting "this country is ours and the government is civilian" as drivers honked their horns in celebration.
In the city of Omdurman, hundreds were clapping, chanting and dancing to drum beats.
A formal signing with foreign dignitaries in attendance is to take place on 17 August, another protest leader, Monzer Abu al-Maali, told journalists.
On the same day, Bashir is due to go on trial on corruption charges.
The next day, the generals and protest leaders are to announce the composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council, Abu al-Maali said.
"The prime minister will be named on 20 August and cabinet members on 28 August," he said, adding that the sovereign council and cabinet would meet for the first time on 1 September.
The talks had been repeatedly interrupted by deadly violence against demonstrators who have kept up rallies to press for civilian rule.
Talks were suspended for weeks after men in military uniform broke up a long-running protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum on 3 June, killing at least 127 people, according to doctors close to the protest movement.
Protest leaders say the accord calls for an investigation into protest-related violence which, according to protest-linked doctors, has cost more than 250 lives since December.
Under Sunday's deal, RSF paramilitaries are to be integrated into the army's chain of command.
Sudan: From protests to power struggle
Following the violent crackdown on the protest camp in Khartoum, the tension between the civilians and military became even more strained. Yet the stalemate appears over – for now. Here's a chronology of events. By Kersten Knipp
Breaking fast during the protests: for weeks – even during Ramadan – thousands of protesters camped outside Sudan's defence ministry, demanding a transitional council in which civilians could decide the future of the country. In early June the military moved in and forcefully removed the protesters. Dozens of people died and those who survived reported rapes, sexual abuse and the use of force
For the love of the country: a protester holds up the national flag outside the army headquarters. His demand: that Sudan's Transitional Military Council hand over power to the civilians. This, the protesters believe, will be an important step towards democracy
Warning signs: in early June, just days ahead of the crackdown on the sit-in, the military increased its presence on the streets. Many protesters predicted that the army would not want to hand over power. This was what they hoped for after the ousting of long-time president Omar al-Bashir
The end of an era: from 1989 until his April 2019, Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan. He suppressed critics. In 1999 he even dismantled parliament in order to maintain his grip on power. His name will, however, be remembered for his handling of the Darfur crisis. His troops' harsh response led to thousands of deaths and for that, he is wanted for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court
A dictator in court: many Sudanese had been waiting for this day for a long time – the day when Omar al-Bashir would have to face a court. On 16 June, he appeared before prosecutors, accused of corruption and the illegal possession of foreign currency. After being ousted, security forces found over one million U.S. dollars stashed away in his villa
The voice of the women: many women actively participated in the protests and they gave the protests a different face. Their presence underlined the protesters demand for democracy and equal rights. During the brutal crackdown by security forces, many women reported sexual abuse and rape as a means to silence them
The Nubian queen – an icon of the revolution: architecture student Alaa Salah became the face of the revolution. A photographer shot this picture as she stood on top of a car and addressed protesters. Photos and videos of her protest chants trended on social media. Online she is known as "Kandaka" or the Nubian queen
International solidarity: thanks to social media, the protests rapidly caught international attention and support from human rights groups and Sudanese living abroad. In a statement, the EU's foreign ministers urged for an immediate end to all forms of violence against Sudanese civilians
Some still support the military: but not all Sudanese civilians are against the army. Some people, in fact, want a tough military rule to give the country security and strength. The army supporters have placed their faith in General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the head of the Transitional Military Council
The strongman in the background: the real power, however, lies not with General Abdel Fattah Burhan, but his deputy, General Mohammed Hamdan Daglu, also known as "Hemeti". He heads the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who cracked down brutally on the protesters. During the war in Darfur, he commanded the feared Janjaweed militias. The protesters fear that he could, in the end, take power
No end in sight to the protests: the protests continued unabated throughout June. Military leaders on Monday, 23 June, turned down a proposal for a power-sharing deal. The protest leaders, represented by the coalition Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which includes the Sudanese Professional's Association, had accepted the deal which was negotiated with the help of Ethiopia
Power-sharing deal negotiated: on 5 July members of the military and protest movement representatives announced they had reached a deal to share power. For the next three years, a transitional council consisting of six civilians and five military figures will lead the country. Democratic elections will then be held. People in Khartoum celebrated the news, though the practicalities of implementation cause conflict to re-ignite
Help from the Gulf: Politicians of other Arab nations continue to watch the developments in Sudan with a certain degree of concern. Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, it is believed, fears that successful grassroots protests could set an example for citizens in the Arab Peninsula. Both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia appear to be supporting the military regime
The neighbour in the North: Cairo seems similarly concerned about the events in Khartoum. Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (pictured l. with Omar al-Bashir in 2018) fears that the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has been trying to silence, could fall on fertile ground in Sudan. If the Muslim Brotherhood gains support in Sudan, al-Sisi believes that its success might strengthen the group again in Egypt
Omar Hussein, a protester waving the Sudanese flag outside the negotiations hall, was overjoyed by the signing.
"Now we can tell the martyrs that their blood was not wasted," he said.
Ibtisam al-Sanhouri, a legal affairs negotiator for the protest movement, said the constitutional declaration clears the way for a parliamentary system with a civilian prime minister. She said the protest movement would have 201 of 300 seats in parliament and the premier, to be confirmed by the new sovereign council.
The document touches on a peace deal agreed with three armed groups last month in Addis Ababa, protest leader Babiker Faisal said.
These groups had spent years fighting Bashir's government forces in the states of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
"A comprehensive peace conference is planned to take place within six months of the transitional period," he added.
Sudan's Arab neighbours hailed the long-awaited deal.
Egypt said it was "a significant step on the right track", while the Saudi foreign ministry welcomed it as "a quantum leap that will transition Sudan to stability and security".
In the United Arab Emirates, minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said Sudan's transition to civilian rule "turns the page" on Bashir and his Islamist allies.
On Sunday, Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir told reporters the deal would see Sudan removed from the United States' blacklist as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The country has been on the State Department's list since 1993 over its alleged support of Islamist militants, a designation that has damaged the country's economy and severely impeded foreign investment. (AFP)