Sudan‘s ruling generals and an alliance of opposition groups signed an accord on Wednesday creating a transitional power-sharing body after weeks of negotiations and deadly protests.
The deal is aimed at breaking the political deadlock that has gripped the country since the toppling of President Omar al-Bashir in April.
The two sides signed the document after intense overnight talks in the capital, Khartoum, over the details of an agreement reached earlier this month to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that will rule the country by rotation.
The 22-clause accord, seen by Al Jazeera, said the 11-member governing body will rule the country for just over three years, after which elections will be held.
The military appears to have the upper hand following tense negotiations and a deadly crackdown last month, in which security forces violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters.
Protest organisers say security forces killed at least 128 people. Authorities put the death toll at 61, including three members of the military. The two sides have agreed on a Sudanese investigation into the violence, but have yet to outline its scope.
The body will have a total of six civilians, including five from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) and five soldiers from the Transitional Military Council (TMC). The body will be headed by a general during the first 21 months of the transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.
The umbrella protest movement will nominate the prime minister, who will name a cabinet of 20 ministers, excluding the interior and defence ministers, the accord said. Soldiers on the council will appoint the two officials.
The TMC and the protest movement are still negotiating over a much more contentious document, the constitutional declaration, which is expected to be signed on Friday, according to an African Union mediator.
Salah Eddin Elzein, a Sudanese political affairs analyst, told Al Jazeera there’s “a lot of work to be done”.
“Most of the sticking points were supposed to be addressed in the constitutional declaration,” he said.
“Hopefully by the beginning of next week we’ll at least have this step behind us and move forward to announce the sovereign body and the cabinet and start the actual work of the new era,” he added.
Having underwent three transitions in the last six decades – one from colonial to national rule, and the other two from military dictatorships to short-lived democracies – Sudan is no stranger to government transitions, Elzein said.
“[This agreement] will set a precedent that we can have a transition jointly managed by the military and the civilians,” he said.
Demonstrators in Sudan demand justice for army crackdown victims (3:06)
‘Obstacles to overcome’
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said while the signing of the accord on Wednesday was significant, “there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome”, referring to the more controversial constitutional declaration.
“The political document doesn’t mention what roles the sovereign council and the cabinet will have – that will be defined in the constitutional declaration, which is going to be the core of the transitional agreement,” she said from Addis Ababa in neighbouring Ethiopia.
Authorities in Sudan shut down Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau and banned its journalists from reporting from the country.
“There is also the issue of immunity. The TMC had asked for immunity for the members of the sovereign and executive council, which is something the FFC does not want because they largely represent the protesters on the streets… [who are] demanding justice and accountability.
“If they give in to that demand, there are concerns among the opposition coalition that they will lose their supporters on the ground.”
As the two sides held talks on the power-sharing deal, a key protest group said it opposed giving the military “absolute immunity” against prosecution for violence targeting demonstrators.
“We refuse absolute immunity that the military rulers have asked for,” Ismail al-Taj, spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, told reporters in Khartoum.
The TMC and the opposition coalition have been wrangling for weeks over what form Sudan’s transitional government should take after the military deposed al-Bashir on April 11 in the wake of months-long mass protests against his 30-year autocrat rule.
Protesters remained in the streets following al-Bashir’s toppling, fearing the generals intended to cling to power or preserve some form of authoritarian rule.
Long-stalled talks between the TMC and the opposition alliance collapsed after the deadly dispersal of a protest camp in Khartoum on June 3.
Direct talks were later revived after mediation efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia.
“The signing of the document is a huge achievement representing a very decisive step towards an all-inclusive agreement amongst all the forces in Sudan,” Mohammed el-Hassan Labat, African Union special envoy, told reporters after the signing ceremony.
“It ushers a new era and paves the way for the upcoming step … [which involves] consideration and deliberations over the constitutional document for the transitional period.”
‘Government for all’
Addressing the same press conference, TMC deputy head Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is also the head of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group blamed by protesters for the June 3 crackdown, described the signing of the document as an “historic moment” for Sudan.
“It is a new era of partnership between the brave armed forces and our partners in the FFC alliance and the Sudanese people,” he said. “This document is the fruit of the efforts of the Sudanese people and us, as well.”
Opposition leader Ibrahim al-Amin, meanwhile, said the upcoming government will be for “all the Sudanese, without any discrimination”.
“We have suffered enough from totalitarian dictatorial regimes that have enslaved the people and devoured our riches. It is clear from the attitude of the signatories of this document that they will address and deal with all the Sudanese people on equal footing, allowing each and every citizen to contribute in rebuilding our country.”