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Sudan leaders sign peace agreement

John Burger - published on 08/17/19 - updated on 08/17/19

Power-sharing deal gives Sudanese hope, but a cautious one.

An African nation long in turmoil got a boost of hope Saturday as leaders of the military and opposition signed a peace agreement.

Sudan’s military and civilian leaders signed a power-sharing deal at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum.

Meanwhile, a corruption trial is to open on Monday for Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years. He is not, however, expected to be handed over to the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide.

Some of al-Bashir’s closest deputies are still members of the military, which signed the new power-sharing arrangement, tempering the celebrations for some Sudanese.

“People are feeling optimistic, but there’s a lot of mixed feelings, too,” Mohamed Azhary, one of many young doctors who took to the streets to oust al-Bashir, told the New York Times. “We are praying for the best.” The newspaper explained the details of the deal:

The agreement paves the way for a transitional government to take power on Sept. 1, replacing the military junta that ousted Mr. al-Bashir in April. The new administration will govern Sudan for just over three years, until elections can be held. The arrangement divides power between Sudan’s military, which has dominated the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1956, and the civilian coalition that sprang from the streets in December. But the military has retained the whip hand. The government will be headed by Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, while overall power will lie with a governing council, split between military and civilian leaders. The council will be led for the first 21 months by a military officer, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The military will also control the defense and interior ministries, which account for a large part of national spending.

The Times also noted: “the uprising that culminated in the ouster of Mr. al-Bashir on April 11 excited the hopes of young Sudanese, especially women, who were desperate for a chance to pull their country out of a spiral of harsh Islamist rule and international isolation.”

Christians, too, had felt the brunt of al-Bashir’s Islamist rule and were at the forefront of a bitter 20-year civil war. The mostly Christian south of Sudan finally gained its independence in 2011. Since then, South Sudan has had its own internal disputes. Pope Francis gathered leaders at the Vatican earlier this year, imploring them to work seriously on a path to peace. President Salva Kiir Mayardit and other leaders were quite taken aback when, at the end of a “retreat” for South Sudanese leaders at the Vatican, Pope Francis bent down and kissed their feet in a graphic plea for peace.

South Sudan activists this week began a campaign to pressure the country’s warring parties to meet a fast-approaching deadline to form a unity government as part of their 2018 peace agreement, Voice of America reported.

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