Sudan mediators propose 2 transition councils: protest leader

Monday May 06 2019

Sudanese chant slogans as they gather during a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on May 2, 2019. PHOTO | AFP


Sudanese mediators facilitating talks between the army rulers and protest leaders have proposed the country have two transition councils, with one led by generals overseeing security, a protest leader said Sunday.

The mediators' apparent proposal comes as talks over forming an overall governing council remain deadlocked, with the existing military council and protest leaders offering differing visions, after president Omar al-Bashir was deposed last month.

"There is a proposal (from the mediators) to have two councils, one led by civilians and the other by the military," said Omar al-Digeir, a senior opposition leader and member of the umbrella protest group the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

"The (new) military council (which will also include civilian representatives) will be looking at issues concerning the security aspects of the country," he told AFP.

The "exact job description" of both the councils has yet to be decided, he said. "No final decision has been taken yet."



Thousands of protesters remain encamped outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, demanding the current 10-member army council that took power after the ouster of Bashir be replaced by a civilian administration.

The current army council has so far resisted handing over power to civilians.

It was still unclear whether both the sides would agree to the idea of having two councils, or if they would stick to the earlier proposal of one joint civilian-military ruling body.

Differences emerged between the two sides initially over the composition of the joint council -- the generals demanded a majority of military figures, while protest leaders insisted the body be civilian led.

Digeir said the mediators -- a group of businessmen, journalists and other prominent figures from Sudanese society -- have proposed an overall package that includes not just the proposed two councils, but also how an executive and legislative body would work in a post-Bashir era.

A senior leader from the protest movement expressed his opposition to the proposal of having two councils.

"We are completely against this idea. We only want a symbolic sovereign council with military representation," said Siddig Youssef, head of the Sudan Communist Party, which is part of the umbrella protest group.

"We want a parliamentary system with the authority in the hands of parliament and the cabinet," he told AFP.

"The military should be confined only to a body tasked with matters related to security and defence."

Protesters initially gathered outside the military complex on April 6, demanding that the army oust Bashir.

But since April 11 -- the day the army removed the president -- they have maintained their sit-in, to keep up the pressure for a civilian administration.


Protests initially erupted on December 19 in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.

But soon they mushroomed into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir, with protesters accusing his then government of mismanaging the economy that has seen soaring of food prices and acute shortage of fuel and foreign currency.

Even as the military rulers and protest leaders debate on the future of Sudan's new ruling body, the challenges facing them remain the same.

On Sunday, on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, hundreds of people formed long queues outside fuel stations and bank machines in Khartoum, an AFP correspondent reported.

"For more than a week now, there's been no cash even in the ATMs installed in our company premises," said an employee of a leading industrial corporation in the capital.

A driver with a private tour operator said he got his car tank partially filled after waiting for an entire day at a Khartoum fuel station.

"People at fuel stations are really angry. They have to wait for six to seven hours in this hot sun to get fuel," he said without giving his name.

Last month, Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced three billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) in financial aid for Sudan, including providing food, medicine and petroleum products.