Unveiling of Sudan's sovereign council delayed

Jean Marc Mojon
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Sudan's protest movement signed a landmark power-sharing agreement with the ruling generals on Saturday but the promised transition to civilian rule has already got off to a bumpy start

Sudan's protest movement signed a landmark power-sharing agreement with the ruling generals on Saturday but the promised transition to civilian rule has already got off to a bumpy start (AFP Photo/Ebrahim HAMID)

Khartoum (AFP) - Sudan was expected to form its sovereign council Sunday, the first step after the landmark adoption of a transitional constitution, but the day closed with no announcement.

More celebrations were held on the streets of Khartoum Sunday, a day after rare scenes of jubilation filled the streets of the capital to hail the signing by generals and opposition leaders of the documents that will govern Sudan's three-year transition to civilian rule.

The ceremony in a hall by the Nile river was attended by several high-ranking foreign officials, the biggest such event in years to be held in the once-pariah state.

Worldwide congratulations poured in after the signing, which revellers and officials alike hailed as the beginning of a "new Sudan" after 30 years of rule by the now-detained Islamist general Omar al-Bashir.

"I welcome this historic moment for Sudan. This agreement responds to the demands of the Sudanese people who have tirelessly called for change and a better future," said Britain's Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed his country would support the establishment of "a government that protects the rights of all Sudanese citizens and leads to free and fair elections".

According to the green book of documents signed on Saturday, several key steps will be taken before embarking on the long and obstacle littered road to 2022 polls.

- New institutions -

The ruling sovereign council is to be comprised of six civilians and five military nominees.

Opposition sources told AFP that five names had so far been chosen, including only one woman, but the six other names had still not been revealed by the close of day.

It was unclear what was holding up the announcement of the council's full line-up, which was now expected on Monday.

The body, which will replace the Transitional Military Council, will be headed by a general for the first 21 months, and a civilian for the last 18 months of the transitional period.

Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist who was on Thursday picked by the protest camp to be prime minister, is due to be formally appointed on Tuesday.

A cabinet is then to be formed before Sudan's new institutions can tackle the main challenges that lie ahead, first among them measures to rescue a moribund economy.

Making the most of a new freedom acquired during eight months of protests -- and clashes with men in uniform that left at least 250 dead -- Sudanese families took to the streets for wild celebrations Saturday night.

Youths spilling out of honking cars drag-raced down the main Nile-side road deep into the night, while groups sang and danced -- the same two words echoing across the entire city: "Madaniya, Madaniya".

It loosely translates as "civilian rule" and one would be hard-pressed to find somebody on the streets of Khartoum publicly opposing that goal.

Some members of the opposition alliance that organised the protests however fear that the euphoria could be short-lived.

Deep distrust remains between the incoming sovereign council's main players.

- Short-lived euphoria? -

While the power-sharing compromise reached earlier this month was widely hailed as the best Sudan could hope for, some members of the protest camp feel it short-changed their revolution.

The omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo -- a paramilitary commander who was one of the signatories of the documents on Saturday -- is one of the main causes of unease.

His forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests and many suspect the man best known by his nickname "Hemeti" is simply biding his time to pounce on power and nip democracy in the bud.

Sudanese analyst Abdel Latif al-Buni stressed however that one of the most immediate perils facing the transition was a desire for vengeance.

"A spirit of revenge against the former regime is dangerous," he said. "It will lead to a clash between the former regime and the new rulers."

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges for crimes committed in the Darfur region, faces trial on corruption charges but his fate remains unclear.