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Sudanese Leaders Reach Power-Sharing Agreement


Sudan's military and civilian leaders have reportedly agreed to share power until the country can hold elections. Sudan has been in crisis since its autocratic leader, Omar al-Bashir, was toppled after pro-democracy protests back in April. In the past couple of months, the military, which is now in charge, has fought the pro-democracy opposition in the streets. The two sides started talking again this week, and this deal was announced today. Reporter Halima Gikandi has been following this story. She's on the line with me now from Nairobi.

So, Halima, what did the military and the pro-democracy opposition agree on exactly? What are the terms of this deal?

HALIMA GIKANDI, BYLINE: So they - both the opposition and the military have been in talks for the past two days, and they agreed on a power-sharing deal that will set the path towards a transitional government in the country. It establishes a sovereign council that will consist both of civilians and the members of the military. And it will be headed by a rotational presidency beginning with a military-appointed president for 21 months and a civilian-appointed president for 18. It also creates a group of technocrats that will be headed by a prime minister to be appointed by the opposition within the next week or so.

KING: But interestingly...

GIKANDI: And finally, it creates an independent...

KING: Interestingly, Halima, the military will get the presidency first. Now, the dictator, Omar al-Bashir, the one who was overthrown - he was in the military. He was part of a military coup. That's how he came to leadership. Do people in Sudan actually trust this deal?

GIKANDI: So, of course, there's a lack of trust between the people of Sudan of the opposition when it comes to the military. The - both sides have been in talks back and forth for months. And last month, in the middle of talks, the military and security forces violently dispersed the months-long protest outside of the army headquarters. And so, of course, there's a lack of trust. That said, I spoke with a member of the opposition earlier today who said that this is really the only way or the only pathway to creating a functional government in the country that can finally start addressing the concerns of the people. And at the end of the day, it will be the people who are watching how this deal is implemented.

KING: OK. So people will be keeping a close eye on this.

GIKANDI: Absolutely.

KING: Halima, who brokered the deal? Who makes sure there's accountability - that the military doesn't, you know, decide it wants to keep power?

GIKANDI: So the deal was mediated by the African Union and Ethiopia, so they will be closely watching how this deal is actually implemented. They're the biggest stakeholders. And, in fact, last month, the African Union quickly suspended Sudan after the military forces violently dispersed that sit-in that I mentioned. So it goes to show that there are third-party eyes who are watching. That said, I spoke with members of the opposition who expressed some hope that the U.S. and the EU will also watch how this deal is implemented.

KING: Oh, that's interesting - the U.S. and the EU both with a long history of watching Sudanese peace agreements. Now, the idea is for this deal to hold until Sudan can have democratic elections. What is the timeline for that? When are those elections likely to happen?

GIKANDI: So these elections aren't likely to happen for at least three years. The plan is for the sovereign council - this rotational sovereign council to be rotating for the next couple of years.

KING: All right. So it is going to take some time. And, just quickly, ordinary Sudanese people on the ground - are they happy about this? Their country's really been in chaos.

GIKANDI: Yep. So there were cheers in the streets of Khartoum this morning and a lot of jubilation when the deal was first announced - people shouting, civilian, civilian, civilian. But, of course, there is skepticism and watchfulness, and we can expect that the Sudanese people will be ready to protest again if the deal isn't implemented.

KING: That's reporter Halima Gikandi. She joined us from Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.