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21.05.2019 Sudan

Sudan general says new ruling body expected finalised in 'short time'

By Bassem ABOUALABASS, Aziz EL MASSASSI
Sudanese protesters kept up their sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters on Sunday night to press for civilian government.  By Mohamed el-Shahed (AFP)
MAY 21, 2019 SUDAN
Sudanese protesters kept up their sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters on Sunday night to press for civilian government. By Mohamed el-Shahed (AFP)

Sudan's military rulers and protesters were expected to finalise the make-up of a new ruling body in a "short time," a top general said Monday, after negotiations deadlocked over who should lead it -- civilian or soldier.

The two sides launched a round of new talks late Sunday over the sovereign council to rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period following last month's ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The military council that replaced him has faced international pressure to install a civilian-led administration -- a key demand of thousands of demonstrators who have spent weeks camped outside Khartoum's army headquarters.

Hours of overnight meetings into the early hours of Monday ended without agreement but the ruling military council announced the talks would resume again at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) at the presidential palace.

The talks started shortly after that time Monday, an AFP correspondent reported from the palace.

The ruling military council's deputy chief Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Himeidti, said a deal was expected soon, according to a statement issued by the Rapid Support Force, a paramilitary group he heads.

"We are going to reach a complete agreement between the council and the alliance in a short time," Dagalo said at an iftar dinner in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum across the Nile. He did not elaborate.

Sticking point

A prominent leader of an umbrella protest group who was at the talks said the question of who would head the body had been a key sticking point in negotiations the night before.

"The dispute over the presidency of the sovereign council" was ongoing, said Satea al-Haj of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which led the nationwide campaign against Bashir.

Protesters have accused Sudan's generals, who took power after ousting longtime president Omar al-Bashir, of clinging to power.  By Mohamed el-Shahed (AFP) Protesters have accused Sudan's generals, who took power after ousting longtime president Omar al-Bashir, of clinging to power. By Mohamed el-Shahed (AFP)

"The military council is still insisting that the president of the sovereign council should be from the military," he said.

"They are justifying it by saying the country faces security threats."

The protest movement insists that civilians must form the majority of the body's members, a demand backed by major world powers, Haj added.

"The international community and the African Union will not accept to deal with a military government," he said.

"The people also want a civilian government."

Generals and protest leaders have already agreed on some key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament dominated by lawmakers from the protesters' umbrella group.

'Dirty political game'

The new sovereign council is expected to form a transitional civilian government ahead of the first post-Bashir elections after the transition period.

But observers say the body may turn out to be only symbolic, with real power resting in the office of the prime minister and the cabinet.

An agreement on the new council's make-up had been expected on Wednesday.

But the generals suspended the negotiations for 72 hours, demanding that protesters remove roadblocks they had erected on several Khartoum avenues before any negotiations could proceed.

Protesters duly tore down the barricades, but have warned that they will build them again unless the generals transfer power to civilians.

Demonstrator Abdelmoneim Seer vowed to continue protesting if the generals stay in power.

"If the military council does not meet all our demands at the next negotiation session... we will continue our sit-ins everywhere" across Sudan, he said.

Khartoum's army HQ has been the centre of protests against both Bashir and the military council that replaced him.  By ASHRAF SHAZLY (AFP) Khartoum's army HQ has been the centre of protests against both Bashir and the military council that replaced him. By ASHRAF SHAZLY (AFP)

The generals have allowed protesters to continue with their sit-in at the army complex.

Demonstrators began their sit-in against Bashir on April 6, but refused to move after his ouster by the military, vowing instead to stay until a civilian government was installed.

Protesters accuse the generals of clinging to power and ignoring their demands.

"A dirty political game is being played by the military council," said Mustafa Sadiq, who spent the night at the army complex.

The protesters' umbrella group on Monday urged demonstrators to be patient.

"Victory is just a matter of patience and it is getting close," the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.

Protester Ahmed Nagdi said the Sudanese people had waited already "for decades".

"It is time to achieve our goals."

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