The power-sharing agreement reached between Sudan’s military and pro-democracy protesters last week came after the US and its Arab allies applied intense pressure on both sides amid fears a prolonged crisis could tip the country into civil war, activists and officials said.
The agreement, which raised hopes of a democratic transition following the military overthrow of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in April, was announced days after the protesters held mass marches through Khartoum and other areas.
However, those familiar with the negotiations say that the main breakthrough happened at a secret meeting the day before the protests, when diplomats from the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pressed the two sides to accept proposals from the African Union and Ethiopia.
“It was a tense, but crucial meeting. It melted the ice,” a leading activist said on condition of anonymity to discuss the back-room negotiations. “The meeting was the cornerstone of Friday’s deal.”
The two sides agreed on a jointly run sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into security forces’ deadly crackdown on the protests last month — although it was unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the Internet after a weekslong blackout.
Much could still go wrong and last month’s violence erupted at a similarly hopeful moment, but for now the deal appears to be on track, with the two sides expected to formally sign it this week.
Two leading activists, a Sudanese military official and two Egyptian officials, described intense US efforts to force a deal after veteran diplomat Donald Booth was appointed special envoy in the middle of last month.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks.
US Department of State officials declined to comment on US efforts to broker the deal, saying only that Washington welcomes the agreement and commends the African Union and Ethiopia for their mediation efforts.
The Arab officials said that the US not only ramped up pressure on the military, but also on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which supported the military’s overthrow of al-Bashir and sided with the generals when the protesters remained in the streets.
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