Nearly a month after Sudan’s top general ousted the prime minister, they signed a breakthrough deal Sunday to reverse the military takeover that had sparked international condemnation and mass protests.
Anger still flared on the streets, however, where thousands rallied again and clashed with police, shouting “No to military power” and demanding that the armed forces fully withdraw from government.
Top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan appeared at the presidential palace in Khartoum for a televised ceremony with a haggard looking premier Abdalla Hamdok, who had just been freed from weeks of house arrest.
The 14-point deal they signed officially restores the transition to civilian rule that had been derailed by the October 25 putsch which threw the poverty-stricken northeast African country into renewed turmoil.
The agreement, which comes after crisis talks involving Sudanese and outside players, declared that Burhan’s decision “to relieve the transitional prime minister (of his duties) is cancelled” and that all political detainees be freed.
It relaunched the fragile transition process toward full democracy that started after the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
A frail looking Hamdok praised the virtues of the people power “revolution” that brought him to government and declared the key priority was to “stop the bloodshed in Sudan before anything else”.
Burhan thanked Hamdok for his service and vowed that “free and transparent elections” be held as part of the transitional process.
“He was patient with us until we reached this moment,” Burhan said before posing for photos with the reinstated premier and his own deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
– ‘Safeguard freedoms’ –
The United Nations welcomed the deal but also stressed the “need to protect the constitutional order to safeguard the basic freedoms of political action, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly”.
Outside the palace, and in other cities, thousands again rallied, met in the capital by security forces who fired teargas — the latest of a series of protests that, medics say, have claimed 40 lives.
Police deny firing live ammunition and insist they have used “minimum force” to disperse the protests. They have recorded only one death among demonstrators, in North Khartoum.
The main civilian bloc which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests and signed a 2019 power-sharing deal with the military rejected Sunday’s agreement.
“We affirm our clear and previously declared position that there is no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy for the coup,” said the mainstream faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change.
“We do not want a partnership with the military,” said Mohamed Farouk, a protester in North Khartoum.
“We want a complete civilian state, for the army to return to its barracks, and to hold accountable those who killed protesters since the coup.”
Thousands also rallied in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, as well as in the eastern state of Kassala, the restive eastern coastal city of Port Sudan and the northern city of Atbara, according to witnesses.
At one North Khartoum rally, protesters also chanted anti-Hamdok slogans and ripped up his portrait.
– History of coups –
Sudan, which is mired in a dire economic crisis, has a long history of military coups, having enjoyed only rare interludes of democratic rule since independence in 1956.
The return of Hamdok, a British-educated economist who has worked for the United Nations and African organisations, has been a key demand of the international community.
Burhan, who served under Bashir’s three-decades long rule, become Sudan’s de facto leader after the army ousted and jailed the president in 2019.
The veteran general headed the Sovereign Council of military and civilian figures, with Hamdok as prime minister leading the cabinet.
But long-simmering tensions between the military and civilian sides marred the transition, until Burhan last month launched the army takeover.
Burhan has insisted that the military’s move “was not a coup” but a step “to rectify the transition”.
Earlier this month, he announced a new ruling council in which he kept his position as head, along with Daglo, three senior military figures, three ex-rebel leaders and one civilian.
The other four civilian members were replaced with lesser known figures.