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Sudan protest leaders cancel civil disobedience campaign

Prominent protest leaders Ahmed al-Rabie and Khalid Omar confirmed to AFP that the civil disobedience campaign had been cancelled.

FILE: Sudanese protestors chant slogans demanding civilian rule on 30 June 2019 during a rally in Khartoum's southern al-Sahafa district. Police fired tear gas at protesters in Khartoum as thousands gathered for a mass demonstration against Sudan's ruling generals, amid international calls for restraint to avoid a new deadly crackdown. Picture: AFP.

KHARTOUM, Sudan - Sudan's protest movement on Saturday said it has cancelled a nationwide day of civil disobedience that was planned for later this month, after reaching a power-sharing agreement with ruling generals.

The decision to cancel the 14 July campaign came as a top general called on the Sudanese people to back the deal, saying the agreement was the start of a "new phase" in the history of Sudan.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change and the ruling military council agreed on Friday to form a joint ruling body, which in turn is to install a transitional civilian administration -- protesters' main demand.

Prominent protest leaders Ahmed al-Rabie and Khalid Omar confirmed to AFP that the civil disobedience campaign had been cancelled.

"It is to give room for the agreement" to be implemented, Rabie said.

A deal is expected to be ready for signing by the two sides early next week, although the draft has postponed the formation of a 300-seat transitional parliament that had been agreed upon in previous talks.

The protest umbrella group on Saturday released a new programme of events on social media networks, which makes no mention of the 14 July civil disobedience campaign.

The alliance had also previously called for a mass protest against the generals on 13 July -- a date which will mark 40 days since a 3 June pre-dawn raid on a sit-in at army headquarters by men in military fatigues that killed dozens of protesters.

**'NEW PHASE' IN SUDAN **

The new programme proposed by the alliance says that there will instead be gatherings on 13 July as a "commemoration" for those killed in the raid.

Omar said the earlier aim of the mass protest and civil disobedience campaign was to "achieve civilian rule" through mobilising people on the streets against the generals.

"But now we can assume that civilian rule will be achieved through the agreement," he added.

Tension between the generals and protest leaders had soared following the raid, and it was only after intense mediation by Ethiopian and African Union envoys that the two sides resumed negotiations and finally reached an agreement on Friday.

At least 136 people have been killed since June 3, including more than 100 on that day itself, according to doctors close to the protest movement.

The health ministry has given a lower death toll of 78 people killed over the same period.

Days after the raid on the sit-in, the protest alliance held a three-day nationwide civil disobedience campaign, which attracted strong participation and hit the country's already dilapidated economy hard.

The deputy chief of the ruling military council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, on Saturday called for Sudanese citizens to come together to back the deal.

"The agreement that we wanted for a long time has happened," Dagalo -- who also heads the feared Rapid Support Forces paramilitary -- said at a rally.

"Now, a new phase in the history of Sudan has started, which requires unity between all the components of Sudanese people for the sake of stability" in the country, he added.

Rights groups and protesters allege RSF personnel were involved in carrying out the June 3 raid on the protest camp outside military headquarters in Khartoum.

Dagalo, widely known by his nickname Himeidti, has defended his force, saying an attempt was being made to distort the image of RSF.

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