Sudan's military leaders reinstate deposed PM, say political detainees will be released

Sudan's deposed prime minister signed a deal with the military on Sunday that will see him reinstated, almost a month after a military coup put him under house arrest. A key pro-democracy group that has mobilized dozens of protests dismissed the deal as "a form of betrayal."

Agreement comes after widespread protests against last month's coup

Sudan's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, centre left, and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hold documents during a ceremony to reinstate Hamdok, who was deposed in a coup last month, in Khartoum on Sunday. (Marwan Ali/The Associated Press)

Sudan's deposed prime minister signed a deal with the military on Sunday that will see him reinstated, almost a month after a military coup put him under house arrest. But a key pro-democracy group that has mobilized dozens of protests dismissed the deal as "a form of betrayal."

The country's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said in televised statements that Abdalla Hamdok will lead an independent technocratic cabinet until elections can be held. It remains unclear how much power the government would hold. It would still remain under military oversight.

It also remains unclear whether all political parties and pro-democracy groups have signed off on the agreement.

The deal expects the military to release government officials and politicians arrested since the Oct. 25 coup.

The coup, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government, has drawn international criticism.

Investigation into protest violence

"The signing of this deal opens the door wide enough to address all the challenges of the transitional period," said Hamdok, speaking at the signing ceremony broadcast on state TV.

Sudanese have been taking to the streets since the military takeover, which upended the country's fragile transition to democracy. The agreement comes just days after doctors said at least 15 people were killed by live fire during anti-coup demonstrations.

Canada, the United States, Britain, the European Union, Norway and Switzerland welcomed the reinstatement of Hamdok and in a joint statement urged the release of other political detainees. The United Nations also welcomed Sunday's deal.

Western powers had condemned last month's takeover and suspended economic assistance to Sudan, which has been trying to recover from a deep economic crisis.

The deal also stipulates that an investigation will be conducted to identify those responsible for the killing and injuring of civilians and troops that marred protests following the coup.

Hamdok thanked Sudan's "regional and global friends" who helped to reach the agreement, but he did not name the countries.

Sudanese people in a Khartoum coffee shop watch a live broadcast of Hamdok during the deal-signing ceremony on Sunday. (AFP/Getty Images)

The 14-clause deal also stressed that power should be handed over to an elected civilian government after the end of the transitional period.

"By signing this declaration, we could lay a genuine foundation to the transitional period," Burhan said.

Hamdok accused of 'political suicide'

The Sudanese Professionals Association, a group that played a key role in the uprising against Bashir, voiced their vehement opposition to the agreement, accusing Hamdok of committing "political suicide."

"This agreement only concerns its signatories and it is an unjust attempt to bestow legitimacy on the latest coup and the military council," the group tweeted shortly after the deal was signed.

Earlier, the Forces for Freedom and Change, the group that spearheaded the uprising that culminated in Bashir's ouster, objected to any deals with the military.

In a statement on Sunday, the group reiterated its opposition to any new political partnership with the military, insisting the perpetrators of the coup should be brought to justice.

"We are not concerned with any agreements with this brute junta and we are employing all peaceful and creative methods to bring it down," the statement said.

The largest of the political parties said to be included in the deal, the Umma Party, had also issued a statement implying that it did not sign off on it.

'A deal among elites'

Cameron Hudson, a former U.S. State Department official and Sudan expert at the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, said the deal allows the generals to largely retain their control and avoid accountability for the coup and the deaths of dozens of protesters.

"This is a deal among elites that largely seems to prioritize their preservation over the demands of the street," he said.

People protest against the military takeover, which upended Sudan's fragile transition to democracy, in Khartoum on Sunday. (Marwan Ali/The Associated Press)

Thousands had taken to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, on Sunday, shortly before the signing ceremony, to denounce the coup and demand the immediate transfer of power to civilians. Protesters waved the Sudanese flag and chanted "Power is to the people! The military are to stay in the barracks."

Also earlier, military and government officials, who spoke of the deal on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, said that the United Nations, the U.S. and others had played "crucial roles" in crafting the agreement.

The United States, its allies and the UN have condemned the use of excessive force against anti-coup protesters.

With files from Reuters