Sudan Military, Opposition Agree to Share Power

KHARTOUM - Sudan's ruling military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups reached an agreement to share power during a transition period leading to elections, setting off street celebrations by thousands of people.

The two sides, which have held talks in Khartoum for the past two days, agreed to establish a sovereign council by rotation between the military and civilians for a period of three years or slightly more, African Union mediator Mohamed Hassan Lebatt said at a news conference.

They also agreed to form an independent technocratic government and to launch a transparent, independent investigation into violent events in recent weeks.

The two sides agreed to postpone the establishment of a legislative council. They had previously agreed that the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition would take two-thirds of a legislative council's seats before security forces crushed a sit-in protest June 3, killing dozens, and talks collapsed.

Joy in the streets

The streets of Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city across the Nile River, erupted in celebration when the news broke, a Reuters witness said. Thousands of people of all ages took to the streets, chanting Civilian! Civilian! Civilian!

Young men banged drums, people honked their car horns, and women carrying Sudanese flags ululated in jubilation.

This agreement opens the way for the formation of the institutions of the transitional authority, and we hope that this is the beginning of a new era, said Omar al-Degair, a leader of the FFC.

We would like to reassure all political forces, armed movements and all those who participated in the change from young men and women � that this agreement will be comprehensive and will not exclude anyone, said General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the Transitional Military Council.

We thank the African and Ethiopian mediators for their efforts and patience. We also thank our brothers in the Forces for Freedom and Change for the good spirit, said Dagalo, who heads the Rapid Support Forces accused by the FFC of crushing the sit-in.

Talks resumed

The AU and Ethiopia made intensive efforts to bring the generals and the protesters back to the negotiating table.

Negotiations resumed earlier this week, following massive protests last weekend in which tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Sudan's main cities in the biggest numbers since the razing of the protesters' sit-in camp. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday had called on Sudanese authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and properly investigate all acts of violence and allegations of excessive use of force.

More than 250 people have been killed since an uprising erupted against al-Bashir in December, according to protest organizers. The military overthrew the longtime ruler in April, but protesters remained in the streets, fearing the generals intended to cling to power or preserve some form of authoritarian rule.

Source: Voice of America