Sudan rebels postpone power-sharing talks over persisting disagreements

Sudan rebels postpone power-sharing talks over persisting disagreements
Disagreements within the opposition movement, protest leaders and the military continue to hamper negotiations over the future of Sudan.
4 min read
19 July, 2019
Protest leaders oppose immunity for military leaders [AFP]

Sudan's leading opposition movement said on Friday that talks scheduled to take place later that day with the country's military rulers were postponed after rebel groups protested against a power-sharing deal signed last week.

The generals and protest leader signed an agreement on Wednesday in Khartoum to form a joint governing body tasked with creating a transitional civilian administration.

They were due to convene two days later to negotiate the details of a "Constitutional Declaration" necessary for a successful transition.

Those talks have now been postponed amid discord within the opposition movement, three protest leaders told AFP.

Negotiations with the military junta have been punctuated by frequent delays and standstills, mostly announced by the military.

But Friday's postponement instead resulted from a lack of unity within the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), the opposition coalition made up of union and protest leaders, rebel groups and political factions.

"We need more internal consultation to reach a united vision," prominent leader Omar al-Digeir said, adding that no new date had been set for negotiations to resume.

Fellow protest leaders Siddig Youssef and Taha Osman also confirmed the talks had been suspended.

They said three rebel groups that are part of the umbrella movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, had reservations over Wednesday's deal called the "Political Declaration".

Digeir said he would soon be travelling to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to meet with the rebel leaders.

The three rebel groups objected to the "unacceptable" deal, saying it did not reference bringing peace to Sudan’s conflict zones or addressing the needs of those affected by war.

"Unfortunately some parties chose not to pay any attention to those issues and went ahead without consulting with their colleagues," Gibril Ibrahim, head of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, told reporters.

Sources close to the negotiations told AFP that the rebel groups have demanded that the "Constitutional Declaration" specify that peace negotiations in Sudan's three conflict zones would be a top priority for the new transitional government.

Various rebel groups have been in conflict with the armed forces for years in the regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Once a peace deal is finalised, the rebel groups want their representatives to be part of the transitional government, sources said.

The rebels are also calling for the extradition from Sudan of those accused of war crimes by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), among them ousted President Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir and other regime figures are charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for their alleged roles in the Darfur conflict.

Continuing disagreements

Friday's planned talks were set to tackle other major issues, including whether to grant immunity to the military chiefs accused of being behind violence against protesters, the formation of a transitional parliament and the future role of paramilitaries.

The umbrella protest movement has said it is completely against immunity for the generals.

"We want to establish a state in which no one is above the law," Osman explained. 

The military on the other hand insists the five military figures who will form part of a new joint transitional body be granted "absolute immunity" from prosecution over protest-related violence.

The generals have also urged a review of the agreed seat allotments to the protest movement in a transitional parliament.

In previous talks, the two sides had agreed that 67 percent of the 300-member transitional parliament be allotted to the protest movement.

The talks were also due to discuss the future of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an officialised paramilitary offshoot of the Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes in the Darfur conflict.

The RSF, commanded by deputy leader and presidential hopeful Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, are widely accused of having led violence against protesters since the overthrow of Bashir.

Witnesses and activists say the armed group led a brutal raid on a Khartoum mass sit-in last month that killed more than a hundred people in a day.

Protesters say they have already offered enough concessions to the generals.

"If both sides hold on to their stances, talks will collapse," leading Sudanese political analyst Faisal Mohamed Salih said.


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