Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

1 / 2
The ruling generals and protest leaders reached an agreement. (AFP)
2 / 2
Sudanese women celebrate in Khartoum on Saturday after Sudan’s ruling generals and protest leaders reached a deal on the constitutional declaration. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2019

Sudanese activists, army finalize power-sharing deal

  • An African Union envoy said the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration
  • The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests

CAIRO: The African Union envoy to Sudan said Saturday the pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council have finalized a power-sharing agreement.
Mohammed el-Hassan Lebatt told reporters that the two sides “fully agreed” on a constitutional declaration outlining the division of power for a three-year transition to elections. He did not provide further details, but said both sides would meet later on Saturday to prepare for a signing ceremony.
The pro-democracy coalition issued a statement saying they would sign the document Sunday.
The military overthrew President Omar Al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian rule. The protesters remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to a civilian government. They have been locked in tense negotiations with the military for weeks while holding mass protests.
The two sides reached a preliminary agreement last month following pressure from the United States and its Arab allies , amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite civil war.
That document provided for the establishment of a joint civilian-military sovereign council that would rule Sudan for a little over three years while elections are organized. A military leader would head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. There would also be a Cabinet of technocrats chosen by the protesters, as well as a legislative council, the makeup of which would be decided within three months.
Ebtisam Senhouri, a negotiator for the protesters, told a press conference that the pro-democracy movement would choose 67% of the legislative body, with the remainder chosen by political parties that were not part of Al-Bashir’s government. The military would select the defense and interior ministers during the transition.
The two sides had been divided over whether military leaders would be immune from prosecution over recent violence against protesters. It was not immediately clear whether they had resolved that dispute.
The two sides came under renewed pressure this week after security forces opened fire on student protesters in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead. At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support forces were arrested over the killings.
In June, security forces violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis.
Protest leader Omar Al-Dagir said the agreement announced Saturday would pave the way for appointments to the transitional bodies.
“The government will prioritize peace (with rebel groups) and an independent and fair investigation to reveal those who killed the martyrs and hold them accountable,” he said.
Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in its far-flung provinces for decades. Al-Bashir, who was jailed after being removed from power, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide stemming from the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. The military has said he will not be extradited. Sudanese prosecutors have charged him with involvement in violence against protesters.

Sudan timeline: 7 months of demonstrations and violence

KHARTOUM: Here is an overview after the ruling generals and protest leaders on Saturday agreed on a constitutional declaration, hailed as a “victory” by demonstrators and paving the way for a promised transition to civilian rule.

● Dec. 19, 2018:  Rallies break out in various cities over a tripling of bread prices. They spread nationwide with protesters demanding that Bashir quit after three decades in power.

● April 6: Thousands set up camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Spurred by the uprising, the army ousts Bashir on April 11, putting military generals in charge. The umbrella protest movement demands power be handed over to a civilian government.

● April 27: Ruling generals and protest leaders agree to establish a joint civilian-military council to govern during a transition. But both sides want their representatives to be in the majority; they also disagree over whether the council should be headed by a soldier or a civilian.

● May 2-29: Demonstrators rally in Khartoum, saying the army is not serious about ceding power.  Pressure grows on the military leaders.

● June 3: Armed men in military fatigues move in on the protest camp at army headquarters to disperse the thousands participating in the two-month sit-in there. It is the start of a crackdown that goes on for several days.

SPEEDREAD

Thousands of jubilant Sudanese took to the streets of the capital Khartoum when the deal was announced before dawn to celebrate the prospect of a civilian government.

● June 9-10: A nationwide campaign of civil disobedience paralyzes the country. There are more deadly clashes.

● June 30: Tens of thousands again rally against the ruling generals. Security forces are deployed en masse and police fire tear gas. Several people are killed.

●  July 3: Talks between the military rulers and protest leaders resume.

● July 5: They agree in principle on a new ruling council made up of six civilians and five representatives of the military. A general would take charge for the first 21 months of the transition and then a civilian for 18 months. Elections would follow. The power-sharing accord is signed by the two parties on July 17, with further talks planned to flesh out details.

● July 23: Hundreds of university students chanting “civilian rule” rally in Khartoum to demand justice for hundreds killed since demonstrations first erupted in December.

● July 28: There are protests in the capital calling for an independent probe into the deadly June raid.

● July 29: People take to the streets in the town of Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, over shortages of bread and fuel. A sniper opens fire on the crowd, killing five teenaged school students. A sixth person dies later. The deaths spark outrage nationwide, prompting demonstrations in Khartoum and other cities. Protest leaders call off talks planned for July 30 with the ruling generals. Bashir’s defense lawyer says on July 31 that the toppled leader will face trial on corruption charges on Aug. 17.

● Aug. 1: Talks between protest leaders and ruling generals resume. Two days later, the AU announces the two sides have reached a “full agreement” on the constitutional declaration, paving the way for transitioning to civilian rule. Thousands of jubilant Sudanese take to the streets of Khartoum to celebrate, expressing relief over the prospect of an end to months of demonstrations and political unrest.


Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

Updated 13 min 54 sec ago

Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

BEIRUT: Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese on Wednesday expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild after last week’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion compounded a dire financial crisis.
Lebanon has been plunged into further political uncertainty after the government resigned this week over the Aug. 4 blast that killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and wrecked homes and businesses in large parts of the capital.
International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people and Germany’s foreign minister arrived in Beirut on Wednesday in the latest visit by a foreign dignitary.
But residents said they needed practical help now.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes, including an economic meltdown that has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend exception interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.

‘Everything is gone’
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
Diab, when announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic graft for the explosion, which was the biggest in Beirut’s history.
The World Bank Group said last week it would work with Lebanon’s partners to mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery. An emergency donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.