Sudan deal first step to transition but challenges lie ahead

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A Sudanese woman chants slogans and wave national flag in celebration, following a power-sharing agreement between ruling military council and the opposition in Khartoum on Friday. (Reuters)
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Sudanese people chant slogans as they celebrate, after Sudan's ruling military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups reached an agreement to share power during a transition period leading to elections, along the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, July 5, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 July 2019

Sudan deal first step to transition but challenges lie ahead

  • Protests first broke out after the government tripled the price of bread, but they swiftly escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir’s rule, culminating in his ouster on April 11

KHARTOUM: After months of political uncertainty, Sudan has taken its first step toward a democratic transition, but getting the ruling generals to deliver on a power-sharing accord with protesters remains a challenge.
“The only path forward is a negotiated deal between the two sides,” said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank.
Sudan’s ruling military council and protest leaders reached the tentative deal in the early hours of Friday, agreeing to form a joint civilian-military governing body.
That body is to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration that will govern for three years — the main demand of demonstrators.
The two agreed the ruling body would have a rotating presidency, a breakthrough following months of political impasse after the army in April ousted longtime ruler Omar Al-Bashir on the back of a popular uprising.
Tensions climaxed on June 3 when armed men in military fatigues stormed a longstanding protest camp in Khartoum, shooting and beating crowds of demonstrators in a predawn raid.
Dozens were killed, triggering international outrage, although the generals insisted they did not order the violent dispersal of protesters.
The power-sharing deal comes after intense mediation by Ethiopia and African Union diplomats.
“Any agreement is a positive step. The challenge will be actually getting the military council to do as it promised,” Boswell told AFP.
On Saturday, the head of that council Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan vowed to “implement” the deal and to work “in close cooperation” with the protest leaders.
The governing body will have a total of six civilians and five military representatives. The six civilians will include five from the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of the transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
Against the backdrop of the June 3 raid, experts doubt whether the military will keep its part of the deal.
“The key question is whether the military or the security sector more widely will cooperate fully with civilian members of the board or is cooperation mere window dressing,” said Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at King’s College London.
“It is the security sector’s intent to accept civilian control that will determine whether Sudan can move to a fully civilian rule in the future.”
Bashir, who came to power in a coup in 1989, ruled Sudan with an iron fist thanks to the security apparatus, especially the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) — accused by rights groups of trampling human rights and freedoms.

SPEEDREAD

A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of the transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.

Experts say the power-sharing accord is far from a long-term solution to the country’s overall political crisis.
One potential dispute is over the eventual formation of a transitional Parliament.
Friday’s agreement postponed the creation of a 300-seat transitional legislature — 67 percent of which would be lawmakers from the protest movement — that had already been agreed in previous talks.
“Failing to agree yet on the legislative body is a giant red flag. This risks becoming the new impasse,” said Boswell.
“Even in a best case scenario, Sudan will be navigating a very challenging transition for years to come.”
Boswell said the protest movement “will almost certainly need to continue mobilizing its street power to pressure the military council to uphold its commitments.”
Prominent protest leader Babikir Faisal said that while the deal may not be a cure-all, an agreement with the generals was needed.
“Given the overall tension, agreeing on a sovereign council and a government is a step forward,” he told AFP.
“The other choice would have been to take the path of confrontation.”
The protest alliance says it is now in charge of appointing the new prime minister and a transitional government of technocrats.
Faisal said the first priority of the new administration will be to offer a “relief program” aimed at tackling Sudan’s economic crisis.
“The economic situation is very difficult,” he said.
“This is one of the major challenges. This revolution was also triggered by the crisis of bread.”
Protests first broke out after the government tripled the price of bread, but they swiftly escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir’s rule, culminating in his ouster on April 11.
And while addressing economic concerns will be key, it will be just one of many challenges facing the protest leaders in their new role, said Khalid Tijani, editor of Sudan’s economic weekly Elaf.
“The government will be formed by the alliance, which means revolutionaries,” Tijani said.
“They have taken on a huge burden of responsibility, because any failure will be blamed on them ultimately.”


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 40 min 8 sec ago

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.