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21.08.2019 Sudan

Sudan looks to the future after new sovereign council sworn in

By RFI
Reuters
AUG 21, 2019 SUDAN

Sudan's new sovereign council was sworn in on Wednesday, the first step towards full civilian rule, the first time the country was not under full military rule since 1989.

The new council replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after strongman Omar al-Bashir was toppled after a culmination of street protests in April.

The 11 joint civilian and military members were announced Tuesday after some continued grappling in the opposition, with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan switching hats from head of the TMC to chair of the new council.

Burhan is the recognized head of state during the first 21 months of the transition period, followed by 18 months where a civilian will be placed as head of state.

However, his cohort, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, is also a member of the council, which makes many Sudanese uneasy. The paramilitary commander was the head of the Janjaweed, which later morphed into the Rapid Support Forces, who allegedly carried out war crimes in Darfur.

Abdallah Hamdok, a Sudanese former United Nations economist, will be sworn in as the prime minister later on Wednesday.

Representatives from across Sudanese society

The composition of the new sovereign council includes two women, and a member of the Christian minority.

“They are known names, they are people from civil society, politicians, journalists, university professors, legal experts, high school teachers,” Rashid Saeed Yagoub, a spokesperson for the Association of Sudanese Professionals, told RFI.

“They represent Sudanese society,” he added.
The Association of Sudanese Professionals played a key role in mounting demonstrations that led to the toppling of Bashir.

This council will have the responsibility of forming a government and legislative body.

Toppling the autocrat is a major feat
The council hopes to return to normalized diplomatic status with their transitional government, including lifting the African Union suspension that had been in place since the brutal crackdown in early June.

Its members are also seeking that Sudan be taken off the US blacklist of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Prosecuting Bashir is another major step in 'normalizing' Sudan.

He is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption, where according to an investigator, he reportedly admitted receiving millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia.

One of the major points is prosecuting Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region.

But he is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide that he allegedly carried out in the country's western Darfur region beginning in 2003.

The fact that the Sudanese protest movement unseated Bashir when he had survived the so-called Arab Spring in 2011 should not be understated, said Murithi Mutiga, Horn of Africa project director for the International Crisis Group.

“It was not surprising that people took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands, braving a lot of police bullets and torture,” Mutiga told RFI.

“Toppling the autocrat is remarkable, but I have to say that they have also shown great pragmatism, because unless you have a violent revolution, it's not possible to completely sweep away a regime that has been entrenched for three decades,” he added.

Work to be done with economy, Blue Nile
The council will need to immediately begin work on trying to fix the economy, which has practically collapsed, a prime reason that sparked the protests in late 2018.

Other issues include dealing with the marginalization and crackdown in the Darfur, Blue Nile and Kordofan regions.

For now, Sudanese are cautiously celebrating the emergence of the new council.

“This is an important step that opens the door to the transition, to achieve the main slogan of the protests: liberty and justice,” said Yagoub.

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