Sudan names ruling council after landmark signing

Young Sudanese boys carry a national flag as they celebrate in Bahri, the capital Khartoum's northern district, a day after generals and protest leaders signed a historic transitional constitution meant to pave the way for civilian rule in Sudan, on August 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2019

Sudan names ruling council after landmark signing

  • Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of Khartoum
  • Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan”

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s opposition coalition on Sunday named five people as civilian members of the country’s sovereign council to be sworn in on Monday, a source within the coalition told Reuters.

A power-sharing agreement signed on Saturday paves the way for a transitional government and eventual elections. It provides for a sovereign council as the highest authority in the country but largely delegates executive powers to the Cabinet of ministers.

According to the agreement, the opposition coalition is allowed to choose five members of the council and the military another five, with the two sides jointly choosing a civilian as an eleventh member.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) chose Aisha Mousa, Siddig Tower, Mohamed Elfaki Suleiman, Hassan Sheikh Idris and Taha Othman Ishaq, the coalition source said.

The spokesman for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said that TMC head Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, his deputy Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and Lt. Gen. Yasser Al-Atta will serve as three of the five military members. It has yet to announce the other two chosen members.

The military members will select the head of the council for the first 21 months of the transition period, which lasts three years and three months, according to the agreement.

The FFC has nominated a former UN economist  Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister. He is expected to be appointed on Tuesday and sworn in on Wednesday.

A Cabinet is then to be formed before Sudan’s new institutions can tackle the main challenges that lie ahead, first among them measures to rescue a moribund economy. 

According to the green book of documents signed on Saturday, several key steps will be taken before embarking on the long and obstacle-ridden road to 2022 polls.

The first is set to come with the planned announcement of the composition of a ruling sovereign council comprised of six civilians and five members of the military.

The signing ceremony in a hall by the Nile River was attended by several high-ranking foreign officials, the biggest such event in years to be held in the once-pariah state. Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a “new Sudan” after 30 years of rule by the now-detained Omar Al-Bashir.

“I welcome this historic moment for Sudan. This agreement responds to the demands of the Sudanese people who have tirelessly called for change and a better future,” said Britain’s Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed his country would support the establishment of “a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections.”

Jubilation

Rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of the capital after generals and opposition leaders signed the documents that will govern Sudan’s three-year transition to civilian rule.

Making the most of a new freedom acquired during eight months of protests that left at least 250 people dead, Sudanese families took to the streets for wild celebrations.

Youths spilling out of honking cars drag-raced down the main Nile-side road deep into the night, while groups sang and danced — the same two words echoing across the entire city: “Madaniya, Madaniya.”

It loosely translates as “civilian rule” and one would be hard-pressed to find somebody on the streets of Khartoum publicly opposing that goal.

Some members of the opposition alliance that organized the protests however fear that the euphoria could be short-lived and deep distrust remains between the incoming sovereign council’s main players.

While the power-sharing compromise reached earlier this month was widely hailed as the best Sudan could hope for, some members of the protest camp feel it short-changed their revolution.

Sudanese analyst Abdel Latif Al-Buni stressed however that one of the most immediate perils facing the transition was divisions within the civilian camp.

“A spirit of revenge against the former regime is dangerous,” he said. “It will lead to a clash between the former regime and the new rulers.”

The former Sudanese president faces trial on corruption charges but his fate remains unclear.


’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

Updated 11 November 2019

’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

BEIRUT: A Lebanese flag flutters in the protest-hit Iraqi capital. More than 900 kilometers (500 miles) away, a revolutionary Iraqi chant rings out from a bustling protest square in Beirut.
“Don’t trust the rumors, they’re a group of thieves,” sings a group of Lebanese musicians in Iraqi dialect, referring to political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.
“The identity is Lebanese,” they continue, reworking the chant by Iraqi preacher Ali Yusef Al-Karbalai, made popular during the street movement there.
Such recent shows of solidarity have become a common feature of protest squares in the two countries, where corruption, unemployment and appalling public services have fueled unprecedented street movements demanding the ouster of an entire political class.
They serve to “shed light on similarities between the two movements and boost morale,” said Farah Qadour, a Lebanese oud musician.
“The two streets are observing and learning from each other,” said the 26-year-old who is part of the group that adopted Al-Karbalai’s chant.
In Lebanon’s southern city of Nabatiyeh, hundreds brandishing Lebanese flags chanted: “From Iraq to Beirut, one revolution that never dies.”
And in the northern city of Tripoli, dubbed the “bride” of Lebanon’s protest movement, a man standing on a podium waved a wooden pole bearing the flags of the two countries.
“From Lebanon to Iraq, our pain is one, our right is one, and victory is near,” read a sign raised during another protest, outside Beirut’s state-run electricity company.
In Tahrir Square, the beating heart of Baghdad’s month-old protest movement, demonstrators are selling Lebanese flags alongside Iraqi ones.
They have hung some on the abandoned Turkish restaurant, turned by Iraqi demonstrators into a protest control tower.
Banners reading “from Beirut to Baghdad, one revolution against the corrupt” could be seen throughout.
Lebanon and Iraq are ranked among the most corrupt countries in the region by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, with Iraq listed as the 12th most corrupt in the world.
Public debt levels in both countries are relatively high, with the rate in Lebanon exceeding 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“What’s happening on the streets in Iraq and Lebanon, they’re sister protests,” said Samah, a 28-year-old Lebanese demonstrator.
“They’re the result of an accumulation” of years of problems.
One video that went viral on social media networks showed a masked Iraqi protester dressed in military fatigues demanding the resignation of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, one of the main targets of protesters in the small Mediterranean country.
In a video released online, a group of young Iraqi men had filmed themselves singing, “Lebanon, we’re with you!“
The two movements also seem to be adopting similar protest strategies.
In both countries, rows of parked vehicles have blocked traffic along main thoroughfares in recent weeks.
University-aged demonstrators wearing medical masks or eye goggles have occupied bridges and flyovers, refusing to believe pledges of reform from both governments.
The big difference is that in Iraq, the demonstrations have turned deadly, with more than 300 people, mostly protesters but also including security forces, killed since the movement started October 1.
Lebanon’s street movement, which started on October 17, has been largely incident-free despite scuffles with security forces and counter-demonstrators rallying in support of established parties.
The two movements, however, are united in their anger about the kind of political system that prioritizes power-sharing between sects over good governance.
The consecutive governments born out of this system have been prone to deadlock and have failed to meet popular demands for better living conditions.
“We are united by a sense of patriotic duty in confronting this sectarian political system,” said Obeida, a 29-year-old protester from Tripoli.
He said he had high hopes for Iraqi protesters because the sectarian power-sharing system there is relatively new, having emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
“In Lebanon, it’s more entrenched,” he said of the arrangement that ended the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.
On a Beirut waterfront, dotted with luxury restaurants and cafes, a 70-year-old Iraqi man who has been living in Lebanon for five years looked on as demonstrators laid out picnic blankets on the grass.
With a Lebanese flag wrapped around his neck, Fawzi said the protests looked different but reminded him of those back home.
“The goal is one,” he said.