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Sudan general renames himself national leader

by FAY ABUELGASIM AND NOHA ELHENNAWY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | November 12, 2021 at 4:27 a.m.

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan's top general reappointed himself Thursday as head of the army-run interim governing body, a sign that he's tightening his grip on the country two weeks after he led a coup against civilian leaders.

The move by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan -- along with other appointments he announced for the Sovereign Council -- was expected to anger Sudan's pro-democracy protest movement, sidelined in the coup. Since the Oct. 25 takeover, pro-democracy leaders have demanded the military relinquish power and refuse to be part of any administration in which a military maintains a role.

Thursday's development, announced in a bulletin by Sudan's state television, comes amid repeated promises from the military that they will hand over power to civilian authorities.

Since the coup, more than 100 government officials and political leaders have been detained, along with a large number of protesters and activists. Almost all remain in custody.

At least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed from excessive force used by the country's security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations.

The protest movement has in recent days rejected internationally backed initiatives to return to a power-sharing arrangement with the military and has called for a nationwide strike.

Sudan has been in the midst of a fragile transition since a 2019 pro-democracy uprising led to the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. The 11-member Sovereign Council was first formed in the summer of 2019, after the military signed a power-sharing deal with pro-democracy forces.

A number of other members of the body sat on the previous council that Burhan headed before he dissolved it in the coup.

Also reappointed to the body Thursday was the powerful paramilitary leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, as vice president. Burhan reappointed as council members another three generals who had served in the previous council.

Three others on the council are leaders of rebel groups who fought al-Bashir's government for years, but who have moved towards peace with the transitional government. They all also served on the previous council.

One of them, Malik Agar, a prominent leader of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, a rebel movement in Sudan's southern Blue Nile States, was one of signees to a historic peace accord last year with the transitional government in Juba, South Sudan.

The agreement under which the council was formed after al-Bashir's ouster stipulated that the council should include five civilians chosen by activists, five military representatives chosen by the armed forces and one civilian member to be chosen in agreement between civilians and the generals.

The make-up of the new council falls short of the demands of key pro-democracy groups in the African county.

Before the coup, the Sovereign Council held ultimate power while the government of the now deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok oversaw day-to-day matters. Since the coup, Hamdok has remained under house arrest in the capital, Khartoum, as Western powers and U.N. diplomats try to mediate a resolution to the crisis.

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