Sudanese civilian protesters, military junta reach agreement on transitional government

The civilian protesters, represented by the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, and the Transitional Military Council have reached an agreement on the composition of the presidential council, which was the main point of contention for months

July 05, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Sudanese civilian protesters, military junta reach agreement on transitional government
Sudanese protestors celebrate after an agreement was reached by civilian forces and the military junta. Photo: ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images

The leadership of the protest movement in Sudan has reached an agreement with the military junta, according to Ibrahim Alamin, a member of Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF). The DFCF is a coalition of political parties and unions representing the protesters.

The two sides have agreed on the composition of the presidential council, which was the main point of contention earlier. They have also resolved on a mechanism to investigate human rights abuses and war crimes by the regime. The agreement came as a number of mass action movements were being held ahead of a proposed round of civil disobedience on July 14. This included the March of the Millions on June 30.

The TMC, on July 3, had agreed to release all political prisoners, including those from armed rebel groups. In return, the DFCF agreed to resume negotiations, which were held under the chairmanship of representatives of African Union and Ethiopia, whose special envoy had been talking to both sides since last month.

A civilian-dominated government

As per the latest agreement, a civilian-dominated transitional government will govern the country for 39 months, after which elections will be held. This government will comprise three bodies, namely the presidential council – which will hold the sovereignty on behalf of the country – the cabinet and a legislative council.

The presidential council will be composed of 11 members, five of whom will be civilians chosen by the DFCF, and five others appointed by the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which is ruling the country now. The one remaining member will be a civilian with a military background, who is agreeable to both sides.

The country’s president, who will head this council, will be a military officer for the first 21 months of the transitional period. A civilian appointed by the DFCF will hold the post for the remaining 18 months. The DFCF will form the cabinet (also referred to as the council of ministers) and will choose 67% of the members of the legislative council.

The remaining seats in the council will be taken by members of other political parties who were not a part of the coalition government headed by Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in April after months of demonstrations.

Thus, the ousted president’s National Congress Party and the Islamist Popular Congress Party, which broke away from the former in 1999 but remained in the ruling coalition, will not be represented in the legislative council.

A bloody path to settlement

The failure of talks over the composition of the presidential council (also referred to as the sovereignty council) led to the junta letting loose a notorious militia which on June 3 committed a massacre while evicting protesters in Khartoum. Over 100 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Following this, the protest movement brought the country to a halt for multiple days through civil disobedience and political strikes. However, resistance on the streets, which were mostly in control of the militiamen who had committed the massacre, had remained minimal.

This, however, changed by the end of the month with a number of night-time marches, culminating in the March of the Millions. These actions demonstrated that the ability of the protesters to reclaim the streets had not been diluted after the massacre.

Following this, serious negotiations resumed again. The DFCF’s concern about sharing power with the military in the presidential council was that it would come in the way of implementing one of the crucial tasks of the transitional government – that of ending the ongoing civil wars in the country and investigating the war crimes committed by the regime.

In the latest round of negotiations, it was decided that the DFCF-appointed cabinet would appoint an independent national committee, which, working under the supervision of the AU, would investigate the human rights violations and the war crimes committed by the regime.