Sudan to launch historic transition to civilian rule
Sudan's military rulers and protest leaders on Saturday are scheduled to sign a landmark deal reached after a bloody uprising which is meant to pave the way for civilian rule.
The ceremony will officialise a constitutional declaration inked on 4 August between the country's Transitional Military Council and the opposition coalition of the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
The deal brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilise against president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power. Brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia, the deal was welcomed with relief by both sides, with protesters celebrating what they saw as the victory of their "revolution" and generals taking credit for averting civil war.
While the compromise meets several of the protest camp's key demands, its terms leave the military with ample powers and its future civilian government with dauting challenges.
With Saturday's official signing of the transitional documents, Sudan will kick off a process that will include important immediate first steps. The composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council is to be announced on Sunday, followed two days later by the naming of a prime minister.
On Thursday, protest leaders agreed to nominate former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister.
The veteran economist, who stepped down last year as deputy executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, is to be formally selected on 20 August, a statement said.
The cabinet is to be unveiled on 28 August, with the newly-appointed ministers due to meet the sovereign council on 1 September for the first time.
Elections must be held after the 39-month transitional period that began on 4 August. Until then, the country of 40 million people will be ruled by the 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will – the deal makes clear – be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defence ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
The move towards civilian rule could lead the African Union to lift a suspension slapped on Sudan in June after a bloody crackdown on a sit-in in Khartoum.
The legislative body to be formed within three months will be at least 40 percent female, reflecting the significant role played by women in the protest movement.
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."
The paramilitary force and intelligence services blamed for some of the worst abuses under Bashir and against the protesters are to be brought under the authority of the army and sovereign council respectively.
With many issues still unaddressed, however, observers warn that describing the latest events as 'successful regime change' would be premature.
"Political dynamics will matter more than pieces of paper," said Rosalind Marsden from London's Chatham House think tank. "The biggest challenge facing the government will be dismantling the Islamist deep state... which took control of all state institutions and key sectors of the economy, including hundreds of businesses owned by the military-security apparatus."
The rise of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo – who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and became deputy head of the military council that seized power from Bashir – as Sudan's new military strongman is causing some concern.
He has close ties to Gulf monarchies, has amassed huge wealth since wresting control of gold mines in western Sudan and was a leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia accused of a genocidal campaign in the Darfur region.
The fate of deposed ruler Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over Darfur, is also unclear. He is due to appear in a Khartoum court on corruption charges on Saturday.
The whitewashing in recent days of walls that bore some of the many murals painted during the protests has been seen as a bad omen.
"The signals we are getting tell us that there is no real change, no real freedom," graffiti artist Lotfy Abdel Fattah told journalists.
The Sudan Revolutionary Front that unites these movements backed the protest movement but rejected the constitutional declaration, demanding representation in the government and more guarantees on peace talks. (AFP)