Sudan needs new date for civilian leadership handover -sovereign council member


CAIRO (Reuters) - The date for the handover of the leadership of Sudan's highest authority, the Transitional Sovereign Council, from the military to civilians is still unclear and requires discussion and a new legal decree, said a civilian member on Friday.

A failed coup attempt on Tuesday laid bare the tensions between the two sides who make up the 11-member Sovereign Council following a sensitive power-sharing agreement in 2019 and has for the first time brought public controversy over when the current council head is replaced.

Council member and former journalist Mohamed Al-Faki Suleiman described the relationship between civilian and military council members as "unwell" in an interview on state television, noting that joint meetings on various topics have become unproductive in recent weeks.

Renewed political discussions and a decree from the Justice Ministry were needed to decide a handover date, he said.

In a speech on Wednesday, current council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan criticized Suleiman and other civilian leaders. Al-Burhan described the military as a guardian for the transition, a description Suleiman rejected.

"The goal of this is to produce a political situation where the military component is dominant and that is unacceptable," Suleiman said, adding that military members need to become comfortable with the discussion and criticism inherent to politics.

The country's constitutional declaration, signed following a 2018-2019 uprising that resulted in the removal of former President Omar al-Bashir, set a date for handover of leadership of the Sovereign Council for May 2021. However, a peace agreement signed in October reset the clock on the transition without specifying a new date for handover.

"The transition to civilians is not secondary and shouldn't be left to fate," Suleiman said, noting that he favoured a proposal to carry out the handover in November. A simple reset of the clock would set a handover of July 2022.

In a phone call with civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that any attempts by military actors to undermine the civilian transition "would have significant consequences for the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship and planned assistance," the White House said.

In a tweet, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez said the U.S. could re-impose sanctions in the case of a coup. "The military must stay in the barracks," he added.

Sudanese authorities say the coup attempt was carried out by current military members loyal the former regime.

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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