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story.lead_photo.caption Sudanese pro-democracy supporters celebrate a final power-sharing agreement with the ruling military council Saturday, Aug 17, 2019, in the capital, Khartoum. The deal paves the way for a transition to civilian-led government following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. (AP Photo)

CAIRO -- Sudan's pro-democracy movement and ruling military council signed a final power-sharing agreement Saturday at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum.

The historic deal, which comes after weeks of tortuous negotiations, paves the way for a transition to a civilian-led government after the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir months ago and the more recent deadly suppression of protests. Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and fears that al-Bashir's ouster could ignite civil war.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, called the signing a "victorious and historic day for our nation."

"The revolution has achieved its goals," he said, vowing the military would guarantee the transition to civilian rule.

Protest leader Mohammed Naji al-Asam said the two sides have ushered in a "new page" in Sudan's history after three decades of "repression and corruption."

The power-sharing deal creates a joint military and civilian sovereign council to rule for a little more than three years until elections can be held. A military leader would head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.

The agreement also establishes a Cabinet appointed by the activists, as well as a legislative body to be assembled within three months. The protest coalition is to have a majority in that body, as nominated by the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, a group of opposition parties and movements representing the protesters.

Ethiopia and the African Union co-led mediation efforts between the military and protesters.

Many regional leaders and international envoys attended Saturday's ceremony, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Attendees in the Friendship Hall where the ceremony took place received Ahmed with cheering and chanting.

But at least one analyst, Suliman Baldo, a senior researcher with the Enough Project, said the country will still face obstacles during the coming months of transition.

"Daunting challenges will face Sudan's progress to democracy and sound governance, chief among them the survival of the elements of the former regime in the institutions of the transition," Baldo said.

Still, the Sudanese celebrated in Khartoum and elsewhere across the country Saturday. Video posted online showed people celebrating in the streets in Darfur and the eastern province of Kassala.

Railway workers and other protesters had traveled to the capital Friday by train from Atbara, the northern transport hub where the uprising began in December.

The military overthrew al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian rule. The protesters then remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to civilian leadership.

The ruling military council and the activists came under renewed pressure to reach an accord after security forces opened fire on student protesters on Aug. 1 in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead. At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support forces were arrested over the killings.

In June, security forces dispersed the protesters' main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis. The power-sharing agreement includes the establishment of an independent investigation into the crackdown on protests, specifically the dispersal of the sit-in.

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, and protest leader Ahmad Rabie, who is a high school teacher, signed the deal. Both had initialed the documents earlier this month.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated the Sudanese people and looked forward to "engaging with and supporting the transitional governing institutions."

The Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change has nominated a well-known economist, Abdalla Hamdok, to lead the government during the transition. He has served as the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa since November 2011, and has yet to be confirmed by the sovereign council.

The council's members are to be announced today, after which the ruling military council will immediately be disbanded.

A Section on 08/18/2019

Print Headline: Sudan deal signing prompts celebration

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