Sudan Military and Pro-Democracy Coalition Sign Peace Deal

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Sudan’s armed forces and a coalition of pro-democracy civilian parties signed a preliminary agreement Monday to end the political stalemate that has paralyzed the nation since a military coup last year derailed it. its transition to a democratic government.

The agreement signed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, after months of intense negotiations, would set up a transitional civilian government and lead to the creation of a new constitution, though enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that previous agreements to share the power have crumbled. .

The two-part deal was brokered by members of the international community, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations and the United States, but is unlikely to satisfy protesters and some major political forces, many of them who have rejected the efforts. to negotiate or share power with the military, analysts say.

It was also unlikely to quickly alleviate the myriad of economic, social and security concerns that have plagued the northeast African nation, which has faced increasing international isolation as the military tightened its grip on power and responded to protests with repeated violence.

On Friday, the Forces for Freedom and Change, the civilian coalition that had ruled the country with the military until last year’s October coup, said an agreement had been reached that would put the country back on the path of democracy. In anticipation of the deal, authorities on Sunday released Wagdi Salah, a prominent politician and anti-corruption figure who was detained earlier this year.

The agreement aims to establish a new two-year transitional civil authority to be led by a prime minister who will be selected by the “revolutionary forces” that backed the deal.

It also limits the role of the military in policy and investment, promises to create “a national professional army” and notes that the military will form part of a security and defense council led by the prime minister.

The second part of the agreement, without providing a timetable, attempts to engage the general public in tackling even more thorny issues related to transitional justice, reforming military and security bodies, along with reviewing the components of a major settlement agreement. peace agreement signed in 2020 that called for an alliance of rebel factions in the troubled western region of Darfur to lay down their arms.

In a statement, the coalition urged the Sudanese people to unite behind the deal to create a “sustainable democratic civil transition” that would “leave off the suffering of our people and establish a better future shaped by the values ​​of freedom, peace and justice.” .”

Despite the lofty ambitions of the deal, analysts said on Monday it would run into obstacles, with some questioning whether the military would voluntarily relinquish power or allow investigations or prosecutions into its past conduct.

“Sudan has a history of writing very well-intentioned and well-written documents, whether they are peace agreements, political settlements or constitutional documents,” Kholood Khair, founding director of Confluence Advisory, a Khartoum-based policy think tank, said in a release. telephone interview.

“The problem has always been how to translate those wonderful words into real mechanisms and policies.”

After a nationwide uprising toppled Sudan’s longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019, many Sudanese hoped their country would finally achieve democracy and put decades of economic hardship behind it. But those hopes have not come true, with the nation, one of the largest in Africa, further plunged into multiple crises.

Popular protests have convulsed the country since last year, when the military thwarted a fragile power-sharing deal with civilians and seized power in the early hours of October 25, 2021. The military, led by General Abdel Fattah al -Burhan, arrested Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok blacked out the internet and imposed a state of emergency just hours after assuring US officials that it would not jeopardize the democratic transition.

But after a month under house arrest, Hamdok was reinstated after signing an agreement with the army to defuse tensions in the country. Protesters in the streets rejected that deal or any compromise with the military, forcing Hamdok to resign in early January.

“Our country is going through a dangerous tipping point that may threaten its entire survival if not remedied soon,” Hamdok warned at the time.

Sudan has not had a civilian prime minister since his departure, and the military has struggled to run the country as donors and international agencies cut off billions of dollars in aid and debt relief.

An estimated 15 million people, or more than a third of the population, face severe food insecurity, according to the World Food Program. Floods have displaced tens of thousands of people, and a resurgence of large-scale ethnically motivated attacks in Darfur has left hundreds dead.

The streets continue to throb with protests as loosely connected resistance committees challenge the military’s hold on power. At least 116 protesters have been killed since the seizure of power last year. according to a tally kept by activistswith many of them nursing critical injuries or remaining behind bars.

Several resistance committees called on their members to march in the streets on Monday against the signing of the agreement.

“The revolution continues,” Bassam Mohamed, a university student attending a protest in the capital Khartoum, said in a text message. Mohamed, 23, said that the resistance committees rejected the agreement and will continue protesting until they achieve a “popular democracy that gives us the right to bread, health, education, work and housing.”

Rights activists said they were dismayed that the first agreement did not prioritize justice or security reform, particularly given the widespread crackdown on protesters since last year.

This “sends a not-so-good signal about where these issues fall on the priority pyramid,” said Mohamed Osman, Sudan researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Once again, all the actors show that they prefer to walk the path of political expediency.”