Deal to restore democratic transition in Sudan delayed again

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A dispute between Sudan’s military and a paramilitary group again forced the delay of signing a deal with politicians to restore the country’s democratic transition, which was derailed by a 2021 coup, a pro-democracy bloc said Wednesday.

The bloc, known as the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, announced the postponement in a statement saying that the deal would not be signed Thursday as planned.

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The bloc said the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force were still negotiating on a reform for the security and military sector to be included in the final agreement. They are discussing the integration of the Rapid Support Force into the military.

The bloc’s statement said the military and the paramilitary force had made progress and only one point remined unresolved. It did not offer further details.

It was the second time within less than a week that Sudanese parties failed to meet a deadline set to sign the agreement between the generals and pro-democracy groups. It originally had been scheduled to be signed last Saturday.

The deal aims at restoring Sudan’s short-lived transition to democracy, which was halted by an October 2021 military coup that removed a Western-supported, power-sharing administration.

The coup dashed Sudanese aspirations for democratic government after three decades of autocracy and repression under Omar al-Bashir.

A months-long popular uprising had led the military to oust al-Bashir and his government in April 2019. Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, has been imprisoned in Khartoum.

According to a draft of the deal obtained by The Associated Press, the military would withdraw from politics and be barred from non-military businesses.

The deal includes an overhaul of the security apparatuses that will eventually lead to a unified, professional and non-partisan national military.

Political parties would form a civilian administration to lead the chaos-stricken nation through elections in two years. They are to name a prime minister who would form a Cabinet and chair the Defense and Security Council, which decides on security issues.

The dispute has focused on the integration of the Rapid Support Force into the military. The force, led by powerful Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, grew out of former janjaweed militias that executed a brutal crackdown in Darfur over the past two decades.

The second postponement came as Sudan braced for anti-coup demonstrations called by protest groups for Thursday. That is the anniversary of the overthrow of President Jaafar al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup in 1985 after a popular uprising against his repressive rule.

Authorities ordered tight security measures in the capital ahead of the protests, with the military bolstering its presence in Khartoum over the past few days.

Armored vehicles were parked at most intersections near the Presidential Palace, and trucks belonging to both the army and the Rapid Support Force were seen patrolling downtown after sunset Wednesday.

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