By Zoe Tabary, Cnn
There is an historic breakthrough in Sudan, where the military chief of staff and the deposed vice president have agreed to force President Omar al-Bashir to re-establish a democratically elected prime minister and let Sudan’s political prisoners go free.
The deal, brokered by the African Union and brokered by a UN panel, has reportedly been reached in secret and could be finalized as early as Monday.
Deposed Prime Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid told African Arguments last year that under the deal, Abdallah Bilal was to take over as prime minister.
The agreement to the formal reinstatement of the interim prime minister will not begin immediately, but Rashid told African Arguments that one of the conditions agreed on was the release of all political prisoners.
“Even if it is just 30, that is enough,” he said. “I think the rest of them will be released without any problem.”
All detainees, including those who are politically active, should be allowed to go free without penalty, he said.
The agreement comes after months of negotiations between the Sudanese military, political opposition and rebel groups. The talks were supposed to formally commence in mid-February but were extended to the end of the month to allay fears by Sudan’s military leaders of a mutiny among their ranks.
Even before the inauguration of the new prime minister, arrests of members of the Sudanese government had resulted in many more activists, journalists and human rights activists being arrested, according to Human Rights Watch.
These include the editor of Sudan’s widely read Al-Hayat newspaper, who was arrested in January for questioning the international implications of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Sudanese and international human rights activists have denounced him as a political prisoner.
The reopening of the political and media space is likely to remove one of the major obstacles to the resumption of peace talks between Sudan and the rebel groups who have been waging a 20-year conflict over the lack of justice and the share of power in Sudan.
Fighting has been ongoing in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which have borders with South Sudan, since the early 2000s. Despite the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which brought an end to the Darfur conflict, there is an ongoing peace process between Sudan and the rebel groups in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Sudan has faced international pressure to improve its human rights record during this process.