KHARTOUM: Sudan’s transition toward civilian rule got off to a bumpy start as generals and protest leaders fell two days behind schedule Tuesday in unveiling a joint sovereign council.
The body will replace the transitional military council that took over from former ruler Omar Al-Bashir when he was forced from power by relentless protests in April.
The very first steps of the transition to civilian rule after 30 years of Bashir’s regime were proving difficult however with disagreements within the protest camp holding up the formation of Sudan’s new ruling body.
The lineup was due to have been announced on Sunday, in line with a deal reached between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change opposition coalition.
The TMC said on Monday however that the deadline had been pushed back 48 hours “at the request of the Forces for Freedom and Change” after they came back on some of the five names they initially put forward.
The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members, including six civilians and five from the military.
It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.
Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist based in Addis Ababa, has accepted the protest camp’s nomination but awaits the announcement of the sovereign council and has yet to arrive in the country.
Hamdok was the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa since November 2011.
The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signaling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the bloody war in Darfur had conferred on it in recent years.
Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable however within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.
The charges against Bashir are partly related to millions of US dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds found in cash in his home a week after his ouster in April.
Images circulated online Monday show Bashir behind bars in a courtroom, wearing a traditional white robe and turban. The court then adjourned and set Aug. 24 for the next hearing.
Bashir has also been charged with involvement in the killing of protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the popular uprising. It’s unclear when he will face those charges.
He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, but the Sudanese military has said it would not extradite him to The Hague.
Bashir was the only sitting head of state for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued by the Netherlands-based tribunal.
The deposed president, who came to power in a military coup in 1989, had failed to keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse Sudan, losing three quarters of the country’s oil wealth when the mainly animizt and Christian south seceded in 2011, following a referendum. That loss of oil revenue plunged the economy into a protracted crisis that continues to this day.
Ethiopian envoy Mahmoud Dirir urged the US on Saturday to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, in order to help Sudan’s incoming transitional government tackle the troubled economy.
“The next period has its challenges,” he said. “Lifting Sudan from the list of so-called state sponsors of terror, the large debts ... and lessening the burden on the economy.”