AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

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African Union mediator Mohamed Al-Hacen Lebatt addresses a press conference in Khartoum on July 12, 2019. (AFP)
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African Union envoy to Sudan Mohamed al-Hacen Lebatt (L) and Sudan's leaders meet on July 5, 2019 after a press conference in Khartoum in which they announced ruling generals and protest leaders have reached an agreement on the disputed issue of a new governing body. (AFP / Ebrahim Hamid)
Updated 13 July 2019

AU envoy: Sudan military, protesters to sign political deal

  • A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18
  • Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir has been involved in mediating between the two sides

KHARTOUM, Sudan: A transition agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and a pro-democracy coalition was scheduled to be signed Saturday, a top African Union diplomat said, just hours after the military claimed it thwarted an attempted coup by a group of officers.
The AU’s Mohammed el-Hassan Labat made the announcement Friday. The transition agreement sets up a joint Sovereign Council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized.
Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir, who has been involved in mediating between the two sides, told reporters that the political declaration will be “debated on, discussed and signed at the same time.”
The deal is meant to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country following the overthrow of autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of Sudan’s military council, said the coup attempt took place late Thursday, just days after the military and the pro-democracy coalition had agreed to the joint sovereign council.
In a statement, Omar said at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group’s leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said, but the council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details.
“The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change,” Omar said, referring to the coalition of political groups that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Earlier this week, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan told the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the ruling military council has thwarted several military coup attempts and that investigations were underway to determine who were behind them.
Tarek Abdel Meguid, an FDFC leader, voiced skepticism about the military’s announcement of a failed coup, calling it a hoax meant to pressure pro-democracy forces into signing the deal.
“They want to say that the situation in Sudan is very volatile, and that there is a deep state with people capable of staging a military coup, so we should hurry up and sign and leave any points of difference to be discussed later,” Abdel Meguid told the Associated Press.
Last week, the military and FDFC representatives announced that they had reached a power-sharing agreement amid robust African and international pressure.
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 the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month — though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the Internet after a weekslong blackout.
The political transition deal is meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers. A committee of legal experts was assigned to draft the details before it would be handed over for both parties to sign.
The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays were announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details. Several pro-democracy activists and party leaders had said the transitional military council was seeking to alter some of the language to increase the mandate of the generals during the transitional period.
Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer, said the military council’s actions will determine what happens next.
“I believe that the FDFC had already made a lot of concessions in this deal, but it seems that the military still expects more from them. If the military insists on that, the signing will be delayed further,” she said.
Awad also concurred that the announcement of a failed coup might be a ruse to use against the pro-democracy movement. But she did not rule out the possibility that the remnants of Bashir’s regime within the state might be plotting a comeback through a military coup.
“Counterrevolutionary forces represented in the old Islamist regime are very active now,” she said.


Algerian court jails protesters over election

Updated 19 November 2019

Algerian court jails protesters over election

ALGIERS: An Algerian court has jailed four protesters for 18 months for disrupting a candidate’s campaign for the Dec. 12 presidential election which is opposed by a mass protest movement.
The court sentenced the four on Monday after protests on Sunday in the western city of Tlemcen, where one of the five candidates, Ali Benflis, was campaigning. No details were available on what their exact actions were.
Algeria’s authorities are trying to quell a protest movement that erupted in February to demand the departure of the country’s ruling hierarchy, an end to corruption and the army’s withdrawal from politics.
The army, which has emerged as the most powerful institution in the country, has pushed for next month’s election as a means to end the protests and restore normality. The former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, quit in April.
The judgment comes a week after a series of other prison sentences were handed down to protesters who had raised flags with Berber symbols during earlier demonstrations.
Several opposition leaders have also been held during the protests, and charged with contributing to damaging army morale.
However, the authorities have also detained numerous current and former senior officials on corruption charges, and have jailed some of them including the once untouchable former intelligence chief.
The protesters have rejected any presidential election carried out now, saying the continued presence of Bouteflika allies in the upper echelons of the government mean it cannot be free or fair.
Human Rights Watch said last week that the arrest of scores of protesters looked like “part of a pattern of trying to weaken opposition to Algeria’s interim rulers and their determination to hold presidential elections.”