Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and ruling military council on Saturday signed a final power-sharing agreement at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum, after weeks of tortuous negotiations.
The historic deal paves the way for a transition to a civilian-led government after the military overthrow of then-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir months ago and the more recent deadly suppression of protests.
Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and amid growing concerns that the political crisis that followed al-Bashir’s ouster could ignite civil war.
General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, head of the military council, called the signing a “victorious and historic day for our nation.”
“The revolution has achieved its goals,” he said, vowing the military would guarantee the transition to civilian rule.
Protest leader Mohammed Naji al-Asam said that the two sides have ushered in a “new page” in Sudan’s history after three decades of “repression and corruption.”
The power-sharing deal creates a joint military and civilian sovereign council to rule for a little more than three years until elections can be held. A military leader is to head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabashi, spokesman for the military council, said that Burhan would be the initial leader.
The agreement is also to establish a cabinet appointed by the activists, as well as a legislative body to be assembled within three months. The protest coalition is to have a majority in that body, as nominated by the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of opposition parties and movements representing the protesters.
The two sides appeared to agree on the soundness of a deal that came about in part because of international pressure. Ethiopia and the African Union co-led mediation efforts between the military and protesters.
Many regional leaders and international envoys attended Saturday’s ceremony, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Attendees in the Friendship Hall in Khartoum where the ceremony took place received Ahmed with cheering and chanting.
However, Suliman Baldo, a senior researcher with the Enough Project, said the country would still face obstacles during the coming months of transition.
“Daunting challenges will face Sudan’s progress to democracy and sound governance, chief among them the survival of the elements of the former regime in the institutions of the transition,” Baldo said.
Still, the Sudanese celebrated in Khartoum and elsewhere across the country Saturday. Video posted online showed people celebrating in the streets in Darfur and the eastern province of Kassala.
Railway workers and other protesters had on Friday traveled to the capital by train from Atbara, the northern transport hub where the uprising began in December last year.
The military overthrew al-Bashir in April following months of protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian rule.
The protesters then remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to civilian leadership.
The ruling military council and the activists came under renewed pressure to reach an accord after security forces opened fire on student protesters on Aug. 1 in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead.
At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were arrested over the killings.
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