JOHANNESBURG - Sudan's path to a civilian government will be a long and complex one, says the United States' top envoy to the nation, a week after military rulers and opposition parties inked an agreement that outlined a three-year power-sharing government.
That agreement follows seven months of political protests, the ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, and many rounds of negotiations involving power players in the oil-rich nation.
But there is much, much more work to be done, says Donald Booth, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan. Since being appointed to the post six weeks ago, Booth has shuttled to negotiations in Khartoum, Brussels and Addis Ababa, where different sides are trying to present their concerns and visions for a new Sudan.
In a conference call from Brussels on Tuesday, Booth pointed out the agreement left key details to be negotiated.
“We welcomed the agreement on that, but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese are calling their constitutional declaration, which is a document that will be more detailed and will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be," Booth said.
"And it's in that document where issues of relative roles and powers of the sovereignty council, the prime minister and the Cabinet and ultimately of the legislative council will be addressed. And then after that is agreed there's still the issue of who will actually be in the transitional government.”
It has been an eventful three-plus months since Bashir’s ouster and arrest by military authorities. Protesters filled the streets after his arrest to demand that the transitional government be led by civilians. Talks began, but then stalled, over who would fill seats in a sovereign council meant to steer the transition.
Then, on June 3, security forces killed at least 61 people who attended a sit-in at the defense ministry. The opposition claims that 128 people were killed. Booth put the figure at 150 deaths, and says he is pressing leaders to conduct a credible investigation into the events of that day.
Some analysts have expressed concerns that, in this tense environment, the political declaration may not hold for long. And Chatham House researcher Ahmed Soliman says he’s concerned that so many of the current negotiations appear to focus on the “who,” and not on the “what.”
"At the moment we're seeing a lot of focus on representation, and maybe there is less focus on actually the governing and the policies that need to be carried forward. You still have real fundamental issues in Sudan," he told VOA. "You know, peace in the regions, and with the armed groups, economic reform and the restructure of the economy and particularly, security sector reform, which will be a big challenge in the country and in the current context.”
Booth urged the various parties to resolve the issues quickly so that, in his words, the country can begin to address issues of reform and move forward to a better future.
“We believe, and I have communicated this to everyone I met in Khartoum, that they need to focus on resolving the issues so that they can get a civilian-led transitional government established in Sudan. [The country] has been operating really without an agreed government since the fall of President Bashir. The transitional military council has, in effect been running things de facto with the old ministries and personnel from those ministries in place. So the sooner that Sudan can establish a civilian-led transitional government it can begin then to address issues of reform and moving forward to a better future.”
Booth did not reply to VOA’s question on what should happen to Bashir. In June, Sudan’s public prosecutor charged him with corruption. Since 2009, he has been on the wanted list of the International Criminal Court, on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.