Sudan Military, Protesters to Sign Political Transition Deal on Saturday, Top Diplomat Says

Agreement announced by African Union envoy meant to end impasse between military council and protest leaders, since forces killed dozens in a pro-democracy sit-in

Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar attends an official function in Omdurman, Sudan, July 4, 2019.
Ashraf Shazly/AFP

A political transition agreement between Sudan's military and a pro-democracy coalition is expected to be signed Saturday, a top African Union diplomat said early Friday.

Mohammed el-Hassan Labat's announcement came just hours after the Sudanese military claimed it had thwarted an attempted military coup.

The transition agreement sets up a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized.

Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Dirir told reporters that the political declaration will be "debated on, discussed and signed at the same time."

The deal is meant to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country following the overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.

Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of Sudan's military council, said the coup attempt took place late Thursday, just days after the military and the pro-democracy coalition had agreed to the joint sovereign council.

In a statement, Omar said at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group's leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said, but the council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details.

"The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change," Omar said, referring to the coalition of political groups that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.

Tarek Abdel Meguid, an FDFC leader, voiced skepticism about the military's announcement of a failed coup, calling it a hoax meant to pressure pro-democracy forces into signing the deal.

"They (the military) want to say that the situation in Sudan is very volatile, and that there is a deep state with people capable of staging a military coup, so we should hurry up and sign and leave any points of difference to be discussed later," Abdel Meguid told the Associated Press.

Last week, the military and FDFC representatives announced that they had reached a power-sharing agreement amid robust African and international pressure.

A military leader is to head the council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month — though it's unclear if anyone will be held accountable. The military also agreed to restore the internet after a weekslong blackout.

The political transition deal is meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers.

The deal was expected to be signed earlier this week, but several delays were announced, raising suspicions that the two parties might be still divided over the details of the agreement.

Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer, said the military council's actions will determine what happens next.

"I believe that the FDFC had already made a lot of concessions in this deal, but it seems that the military still expects more from them. If the military insists on that, the signing will be delayed further," Awad said.