Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, chanting revolutionary songs and waving national flags after the country’s military rulers and opposition coalition signed a hard-won constitutional declaration.
The document, initialled on Sunday, paves the way for a transition to civilian rule following the toppling of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April.
It sets the shape of an interim government that will govern Sudan for a transitional period of three years until elections are held.
Envoys from the African Unionand Ethiopia brokered the talks that resulted in the constitutional declaration. Negotiations between the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition stalled repeatedly amid deadly violence against protesters who kept up demonstrations demanding civilian rule.
A formal signing of the document will take place in front of foreign dignitaries on August 17.
Protest movement leader Ahmed Rabie and the deputy head of the ruling military council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, signed the declaration at the ceremony attended by African Union and Ethiopian mediators.
“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 a wave of 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 people gathered outside the hall chanted “blood for blood, our government is civilian” and “revolution, revolution”.
A formal signing in front of foreign dignitaries is to take place on Aug. 17 — the date on which ousted president Omar Al-Bashir is due to go on trial on corruption charges — another protest leader, Monzer Abu Al-Maali, told AFP.
The next day, the generals and protest leaders are to announce the composition of the new transitional civilian-majority ruling council, he said.
“Members of the ruling sovereign council will be announced on Aug. 18, the prime minister will be named on Aug. 20 and cabinet members on Aug. 28,” Abu Al-Maali told AFP.
Sunday’s accord was the result of difficult negotiations between the leaders of mass protests which erupted last December against Bashir’s three-decade rule and the generals who eventually ousted him in April.
The talks had been repeatedly interrupted by deadly violence against demonstrators who have kept up rallies to press for civilian rule.
‘Quantum leap’ –
Sudan’s Arab neighbors 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 UAE, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said Sudan’s transition to civilian rule “turns the page” on Bashir and his Islamist allies.
The Arab League said the accord would “launch a new and important phase in line with the Sudanese people’s aspirations”.
Here are some of the important details of the new agreement
- The transitional period will last for 36 months from the day of the signing of the constitutional declaration.
- There will be a sovereign council, which will oversee the creation of a council of ministers and a legislative council.
- The sovereign council will be an 11-member governing body, which will rule the country for just over three years. The body will be composed of five military personnel chosen by the TMC and five civilians selected by the FFC. The 11th member will be a civilian chosen by consensus between the two parties.
- The sovereign council will be headed by a military general during the first 21 months, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.
- The FFC will appoint the prime minister.
- The prime minister will name a cabinet of 20 ministers from a list of nominees presented by the FFC, excluding the interior and defence ministers. The latter pair will be appointed by the military members on the sovereign council.
- Legal action cannot be taken against members of the three councils without permission from the legislative council. The decision to lift immunity would require the approval of a majority of legislators.
- The legislative council will be independent. Its members cannot exceed 300 people, and at least 40 percent of the seats will be reserved for women.
- The FFC will appoint 67 percent of the legislative council’s members, while other political groups that are not associated with al-Bashir will select the rest.
- Sudan’s armed forces and its paramilitary Rapid Support Forces will be led by the commander of the armed forces, who is also the head of the sovereign council.
- The council of ministers may ask the sovereign council to announce a state of national emergency if the unity and safety of the country are at risk. Such a request must be presented to the legislative council within 15 days, and will become invalid if the assembly fails to approve it.
- New policies will be developed over the next six months in consultation with armed groups in various regions of the country to achieve comprehensive and lasting peace.
The constitutional declaration also contains a chapter on rights and freedoms for Sudanese citizens. It says:
- Everyone is equal before the law.
- No one shall be arbitrarily arrested unless for reasons stipulated by law.
- No one shall be subject to torture, humiliation, or ill-treatment.
- The state will protect the social, civil, political, cultural, and economic rights of women, which shall be equal to those of men.
- Everyone has the right to a fair trial; the accused is innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law.
- Every citizen has the right to express themselves freely without limitations, and has the right to receive or publish information and access the media in accordance with the law.
- Every citizen has the right to access the internet in accordance with the law.
- Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and the right to create and/or join political parties, NGOs, syndicates, and professional unions.
On Sunday, Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir told reporters the signing of the deal would “end Sudan’s listing as a (state) sponsor of terrorism”.
Sudan has been on a US blacklist for decades over its alleged support of militants, a designation that has damaged the country’s economy and severely impeded foreign investment.