Net blocking and journalist arrests, Sudan’s junta is stifling speech. And the rise of a far-right French journalist.
Thousands of protesters marched towards the presidential palace in Sudan’s capital Khartoum ahead of an expected meeting between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Demonstrators carried Sudanese flags on Sunday as well as pictures of those killed during recent protests against last month’s coup, and shouted chants against al-Burhan. Tear gas was fired by security forces at protesters as they approached the presidential palace.
The march followed reports that Sudan’s military plans to reinstate Hamdok and release detained civilian leaders after last month’s military coup.
Fadlallah Burma Nasir, head of the Umma Party, confirmed the deal to reporters. A group of Sudanese mediators also released a statement on the agreement.
“A political agreement has been reached between General Burhan, Abdalla Hamdok, political forces and civil society organisations for Hamdok’s return to his position, and the release of political detainees,” said Nasir.
Hamdok will form an independent cabinet of technocrats and all political detainees will be released under the deal between the military and political parties, Nasir said.
He added he took part in a meeting late on Saturday in which mediators reached the agreement. The Sovereign Council will hold a meeting on Sunday before announcing the deal, said a source with knowledge of the talks.
The agreement comes more than three weeks since General al-Burhan derailed Sudan’s transition towards civilian rule with a coup.
On October 25, al-Burhan declared a state of emergency, dissolved the interim government, and arrested the civilian leadership – drawing widespread international condemnation and provoking people to take to the streets.
Hamdok was placed under house arrest when the military seized power. Sudan’s military lifted restrictions on his movement and removed the security forces that were stationed outside his home on Sunday, his office said.
The takeover ended a transitional partnership between the military and civilian groups that helped topple former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
A statement from the mediators said the deal was reached following an agreement among political factions, ex-rebel groups, and military figures.
“The agreement will be officially announced later today after the signing of its terms and the accompanying political declaration,” it said.
Wednesday was the deadliest day with 16 people killed. Medics said on Saturday the number of people killed since the military takeover had risen to at least 40. Sudanese authorities said an investigation into the killings would be launched.
Rallies have often turned violent, with police and soldiers using live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds. Authorities have denied using any live ammunition and insist they employed “minimum force” to quell crowds.
The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the group that spearheaded the uprising that culminated in al-Bashir’s ouster, objected to any deals with the military.
In a statement Sunday, the group reiterated its opposition to any new political partnership with the military, insisting the perpetrators of the coup should be brought to justice.
“We are not concerned with any agreements with this brute junta and we are employing all peaceful and creative methods to bring it down,” it said.
‘Return to their barracks’
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the capital Khartoum, said people are questioning the future role of the military.
“While many of them say they want an end to this political instability, and they want to see some kind of transition in place, they don’t want the military to continue to have a role in the politics of the country. They want them to return to their barracks, and they want a completely civilian transition.”
Al-Burhan, the top general, has insisted the military’s move “was not a coup” but a step “to rectify the transition” as factional infighting and splits deepened between civilians and the military under the government he deposed.
Earlier this month, he announced a new civilian-military ruling council in which he kept his position as head, along with a powerful paramilitary commander, three senior military figures, three ex-rebel leaders and one civilian.
Morgan said questions remain over how much decision-making power Hamdok will have if he is reinstated as prime minister.
“Any cabinet minister he appoints has to be approved by the Sovereign Council, and that is controlled by [coup leader] General al-Burhan. So it’s not clear how much freedom he will have in terms of choosing his cabinet,” she said.
Western powers that had backed Sudan’s political transition condemned the military takeover and suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance to Sudan.
The return of Hamdok, an economist who worked for the United Nations and African organisations, was a key demand of the international community.