Sudan protesters accept Ethiopia plan for political transition

Ruling military generals and protest leaders have been wrangling over the makeup of a transitional government.

    Sudanese protesters chant slogans demanding a civilian government at the barricades on a road in Omdurman [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]
    Sudanese protesters chant slogans demanding a civilian government at the barricades on a road in Omdurman [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

    Protest leaders in Sudan said on Saturday they have accepted the creation of a civilian-majority governing body for a political transition in the country, as proposed by an Ethiopian envoy.

    The compromise blueprint suggests the creation of a 15-member governing body - comprising eight civilians and seven members of the military - that would install a civilian administration, according to AFP news agency.

    "We think that our acceptance of the proposal is a major leap towards meeting the goals of the revolution, which are freedom, peace and justice," protest leader Babiker Faisal told reporters in a statement, AFP reported.

    "It will put the country on the right track to create the transitional period that would usher in sustainable democracy."

    The ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has yet to give its decision on the Ethiopian proposal.

    Dispute

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    According to the Ethiopian plan, seven of the eight civilians on the governing body will come from the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, another protest leader, Amjad Farid, had told AFP earlier on Saturday.

    Ethiopia has stepped up its efforts to resolve the political crisis in Sudan since the deadly June 3 dispersal of a long-running protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum

    Sudan has been wracked by tensions between protest leaders and generals, who seized power after removing President Omar al-Bashir in April amid massive street demonstrations.

    The situation was exacerbated after the crackdown, in which Sudanese doctors linked to the protest movement said more than 118 people were killed and hundreds wounded.

    The TMC put the death toll at 61 people.

    Witnesses said the violence was perpetrated by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a feared force that grew out of the Janjaweed militias - accused by rights groups of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

    The TMC initially denied ordering the dispersal of the sit-in, insisting they authorised only a limited operation to clear drug dealers from around the camp. However, they eventually admitted to having given the order.

    The crackdown came after talks between protest leaders and the TMC failed to reach an agreement on the composition of a new ruling body and who should lead it - a civilian or soldier.

    Days after the raid, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed led mediation efforts between the two sides.

    In previous talks before the crackdown, protest leaders and the generals had agreed on a three-year transition period and to form a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of legislators coming from the protest movement.

    'Trust shaken'

    Marwa Gibril, a Sudanese human rights activist, told Al Jazeera that the protesters remain optimistic that the transitional government will be led by civilians.

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    "People will be very sceptical about this deal," she said. "Trust from the people towards the Transitional Military Council has been shaken after the attack, but there remains some optimism that we would like to move forward.

    "The situation now is at a standstill and I don't think anyone would like to see the current situation continue. We would like to see a transition to civil rule.

    "I think the international community exerted huge pressure on the Transitional Military Council, but more importantly, the Sudanese people through a continuation of the peaceful demonstration, as well as civil disobedience, forced the transitional military council to come back to the table."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies