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Sudanese Military, Protest Leaders Sign Transition Deal

By Esha Sarai August 17, 2019

Sudan's Transitional Military Council and protest leaders on Saturday signed a historic power-sharing agreement in Khartoum.

The pact opens the way for the two factions to form a joint military and civilian council that will lead Sudan for three years until elections are held for a civilian-led government.

While the signing itself was brief, hours of celebrations followed across the capital.

Sudanese citizens waved flags and chanted slogans that had been repeated during the protests, the most popular of which was the word "madania," which means "civilians." In the context of Saturday's agreement, that referred to the success of civilian protests in forming a new government.

"I'm so happy – I can't express it," Nirad Abdullah, who stood outside Friendship Hall as the agreement was being signed, told VOA.

"A new Sudan will be built. It's really a beautiful thing. Our lives are going to be changed," she said.

Fellow protesters welcomed

As many cheered the agreement from outside the government hall in Khartoum, hundreds of others went to the train station to greet residents of Atbara, the first city to protest against former President Omar al-Bashir's rule in December. They traveled 300 kilometers to celebrate in the capital.

"We came here to express our victory, to carry the memories and ambitions of the Sudanese people," Awadallah Ahmed told VOA as he stepped off the train. "We came to witness the final signing and witness the fulfillment of the demands of the revolution."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday, "To the people of #Sudan, we congratulate you on today's signing of the Constitutional Declaration. The United States will continue to support you in your pursuit of a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections."

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus issued a statement about the Constitutional Declaration that added, "The Forces for Freedom and Change and the Transitional Military Council have taken an important step forward. We look forward to the swearing-in of the Sovereign Council on August 19 and the appointment of a prime minister on August 20."

The transition deal followed months of demonstrations after al-Bashir was forced out of office in April. Even after his ouster, the Sudanese people continued to make their voices heard in the streets, demanding a fair transition plan.

Work ahead

Preceding protests erupted in December over the high price of fuel, and eventually evolved into demands for the authoritarian al-Bashir to step down.

"We have been through a very tough time," Hiba Salah, who had been participating in protests since December, told VOA.

"When the revolution erupted in December, the protests were not that big, but gradually they grew to this. So it's huge for us, despite the fact that we still have demands," she said, speaking with a Sudanese flag draped around her, standing outside Friendship Hall while the agreement was being signed.

Salah was one of many protesters who were somewhat wary about celebrating. Although many point to the signing of the agreement as proof of the success of their revolution, some opposition supporters are unhappy that military leaders who carried out violent attacks on protesters, killing more than 200 this year, will be named to the Sovereign Council.

Under the agreement that was formalized Saturday, members of the Sovereign Council will be named on Sunday, and a prime minister is to be unveiled Tuesday. The military will remain in charge of the country for more than a year before the civilians take control.

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