Sudan sovereign council chairman sworn in

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudan took further steps in its transition towards civilian rule yesterday with the swearing in of a new sovereign council and the appointment of a prime minister.

The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

The first steps of the transition after the mass celebrations that marked the August 17 adoption of a transitional constitution proved difficult however.

The names of the joint civilian-military sovereign council’s 11 members were eventually announced late Tuesday after differences within the opposition camp held up the process for two days.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the chairman of the new sovereign council shortly after 11am, state news agency SUNA reported.

He will be Sudan’s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.

The council’s 10 other members were expected to be sworn and Abdalla Hamdok, who was chosen by the opposition last week to be prime minister, is also due to take office.

Head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. – PHOTO: AFP

The sovereign council includes two women, including a member of Sudan’s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed last Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding its pariah status.

Sudan’s new rulers are expected to push for the lifting of the suspension from the African Union that followed a deadly crackdown on a sit-in in June.

The ruling council will also seek to have the country removed from the United States (US) list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for his role in massacres in the Darfur region, where a rebellion broke out in 2003.

He appeared in court on Monday – but only on charges of corruption for the opening of a trial in which an investigator said the deposed leader admitted to receiving millions in cash.

Pictures of the 75-year-old autocrat sitting in a cage during the hearing instantly became a symbol of his military regime’s downfall.

The sight of their former tormentor in the dock was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sudanese but many warned the graft trial should not distract from the more serious indictments he faces before the ICC.

“The evidence he committed genocide should come forward… Many civilians inside and outside Sudan have died because of him and he should face justice,” one resident, Alhaj Adam, told AFP.