Breaking: Sudan army chief names new governing Sovereign Council

Sudan’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led a coup last month that removed the country’s transitional government, has appointed a new governing Sovereign Council, with representatives of the main bloc demanding a transfer to civilian rule excluded.

State television reported on Thursday that al-Burhan would remain the head of the council, while Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the leader of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces who is also known as Hemeti, would keep his post as deputy.

Anti-coup protesters in the east of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, reacted to al-Burhan’s move by blocking roads and burning tires, witnesses said. Pictures posted on social media appeared to show similar protests in other parts of the city.

The developments came more than two weeks after the army dissolved the sovereign council, together with the civilian cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and declared a state of emergency.

The power grab was widely condemned by the international community, with the United Nations, Western countries, and Gulf states calling for the restoration of a civilian-led government. National and international efforts have since been underway to resolve the crisis, while pro-democracy protesters have staged mass demonstrations denouncing the coup.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric described al-Burhan’s latest move as “very concerning” and said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wanted to “see a return to the transition as quickly as possible.”

The sovereign council was formed in 2019 as part of a power-sharing agreement between members of the army and civilians with the task of overseeing Sudan’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising led to the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.

The body had served as the country’s collective head of state, alongside Hamdok’s government which ran Sudan’s day-to-day affairs. Al-Burhan and Dagalo had been due to hand over its leadership to a civilian in the coming months.

The new 14-member council includes army commanders, former rebel leaders and new civilian members.

So far, 13 members have been appointed, including three senior army figures and five civilians. A civilian representative for the Eastern Sudan region has yet to be named as negotiations are still ongoing. Such an appointment is particularly sensitive. In early October, demonstrators from the Beja tribe in the country’s east blocked roads around Port Sudan and forced Red Sea ports to close, disrupting oil and food supplies directed to Khartoum.

The new appointees also include ex-rebel leaders Malik Agar, Alhady Idris and Altaher Hagar, who signed the Juba peace agreement, a deal with the transitional government aimed at ending Sudan’s decades-old internal conflicts.

But the civilian representatives of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the umbrella alliance which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests, were dropped from the council.

“It seems that al-Burhan is trying to build a national consensus without getting any member close to Hamdok,” said Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar, reporting from Khartoum.

These exclusions reflect how “negotiations between the army and the Hamdok have failed terribly”, said Serdar.

“This will have complications because the streets are demanding Hamdok to be back and the international community is putting pressure on al-Burhan to restore a civilian government and take Hamdok as its prime minister,” he added.

Dujarric, the UN spokesman, had said on Wednesday that UN Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes had met al-Burhan on Tuesday.

In the talks, the special representative called for “a return to the transitional partnership” and appealed to the military “to exercise restraint and to take de-escalation measures, including freeing all those people who have been detained and the prime minister who remains under house detention”, said Dujarric.

Since the October 25 coup, more than 100 government officials and political leaders, along with a large number of demonstrators and activists, have been arrested. The army also placed Hamdok under house arrest at his residence in Khartoum.

At least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations. Al-Burhan has denied that the army was responsible for the death of protesters.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Burhan said he was committed to handing over power to a civilian government, promising not to participate in any government that comes after the transitional period.

But the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a prominent pro-democracy group that was instrumental in the 2019 popular uprising, led a two-day civil disobedience and strike campaign earlier this week and has promised to continue protesting until a civilian government is established.

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