Officials gather outside a courtroom ahead of Omar Al Bashir’s trial in Khartoum on Monday. Agence France-Presse
Sudan’s ruling military council said on Monday the country’s pro-democracy movement has asked for a delay on the announcement of a joint ruling body because of last-minute, internal disputes over the opposition appointees.
The new, 11-member body — called the sovereign council — is to rule Sudan for a little over three years until elections can be held.
The body was envisaged under a power-sharing deal between the military and the protesters that sought to resolve weeks of standoff in the wake of the April ouster of Omar Al Bashir, the country’s president of 30 years.
Bashir, who has been in custody since the military removed him from power following months of street protests against his rule, appeared on Monday in a Khartoum court amid heavy security. He faces corruption-related charges, including money laundering and the possession of large amounts of foreign currency.
The military and protest leaders signed the final power-sharing deal on Saturday, following pressure from the United States and its Arab allies amid growing concerns the political crisis could ignite another civil war in Sudan.
Sudan’s crisis erupted last December with demonstrators taking to the streets over the country’s crumbling economy. That quickly morphed into a nationwide anti-government protest movement demanding Bashir relinquish power.
The military then moved in, ousted Bashir and took over the country. But the protesters stayed on the streets, fearing a military dictatorship and demanding a speedy transition to civilian rule. After a deadly crackdown, several rounds of negotiations and mediation by the African Union, Ethiopia and the West, the demonstrators and the generals agreed to a power-sharing deal.
The makeup of the sovereign council was to be announced on Sunday, to be followed by the disbanding the ruling military council that had run the country since April.
But the military council’s spokesman, Lt. Gen. Shams Al Din Kabashi, said the pro-democracy movement withdrew its appointees to the council, saying it would hold more consultations among its factions.
That comes after internal disputes within the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the opposition factions, over the nomination of one its leaders, Taha Othman, to the sovereign council — despite the SPA’s decision to bow out of it.
Othman, a key protest negotiator, himself said earlier on Monday he was withdrawing his nomination because of “confusion and divisions” within the SPA.
The sovereign council would include five military members and five civilians. An eleventh, independent member was also agreed on, though his identity has not been revealed, Kabashi said.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who chaired the military council, would lead the sovereign council for the first 21 months while a civilian leader would follow for the next 18.
Protest leaders have nominated a well-known economist, Abdalla Hamdok, to serve as prime minister of the interim cabinet during the transition.
He was the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa since November 2011, but has yet to be confirmed by the sovereign council.
AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat on Monday hailed the appointment of Hamdok as prime minister as part of the power-sharing deal.
“This historic achievement is the culmination of months of negotiations and the result of the steadfast and peaceful resolve of the Sudanese people, especially the women and youth, for a democratic transition in Sudan,” he said.
The charges against Bashir are partly related to millions of US dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds found in cash in his home a week after his ouster in April.
Images circulated online Monday show Bashir behind bars in a courtroom, wearing a traditional white robe and turban. The court then adjourned and set Aug.24 for the next hearing.
Bashir has also been charged with involvement in the killing of protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the popular uprising. It’s unclear when he will face those charges.
He is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, but the Sudanese military has said it would not extradite him to The Hague.