Sudan protesters dispute generals' take on transition plans

Tuesday June 25 2019

Sudanese protesters gather during a demonstration outside the Central Bank in Khartoum on May 29, 2019. PHOTO | AFP



Sudanese protest leaders said Monday that an Ethiopia-drafted proposal for the country's political transition was already "unified" with an African Union plan, dismissing calls by ruling generals for a joint blueprint.

Ethiopia and the African Union have stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Sudan, which has been wracked by tensions between the protest leaders and generals since a deadly dispersal of a sit-in earlier this month.

On Sunday, the generals, who seized power after deposing long-time president Omar al-Bashir in April, said mediators from the AU and Ethiopia had offered "different" proposals for the political transition, and called for them to unify their efforts.

But the protest movement contested that position on Monday.

"The initiatives (by the AU and Ethiopia) were unified a while ago and were presented (as one) to all parties at the same time," said protest leader Ismail al-Taj at a press conference on Monday.


"The Ethiopian and African envoys met on Sunday with the Alliance for Freedom and Change to discuss this unified initiative," said Taj, referring to the umbrella protest movement that spearheaded the anti-Bashir campaign and is now at loggerheads with the generals.

The alliance has already accepted the proposal presented to them by an Ethiopian envoy, which entails creating a 15-member civilian-majority governing body during a three-year transition period.


The Ethiopian blueprint, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, suggests the ruling body be made up of eight civilians and seven members of the military.

The proposal also suggests that the ruling military council chairs the first 18 months of the governing body, and the remaining 18 months would be headed by a representative from the protest movement.

The blueprint further says that a transitional parliament of 300 lawmakers would take 67 percent of its lawmakers from the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The remaining 33 percent would be from other political groups, excluding Bashir's now defunct National Congress Party.

The AU, which has consistently supported the protesters and urged the ruling military council to ensure a smooth transition, suspended Sudan soon after the violent dispersal of a protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum on June 3.

The protest leaders and generals had previously agreed on a transitional period of three years and that 67 percent of the lawmakers would be from the protest movement.

But tensions between the two sides surged as a result of the deadly break up of the protest camp.

The violent dispersal of the weeks-long rally came after the two sides failed during previous talks to agree on the composition of the new ruling body and who should lead it -- a civilian or a soldier.

Medics linked to the protest movement say the crackdown on demonstrators since June 3 has killed at least 128 people, the majority of them on the day of the dispersal.

The health ministry says the death toll stands at 61 nationwide.

The generals deny they ordered the dispersal, insisting they had authorised only a limited operation to clear a nearby area of drug dealers.