Factions aligned with Sudan's military have drawn up a deal to form a transitional government that would cement the army's control and bypass pro-democracy groups it shared power with before an October coup, according to a document seen by Reuters and three sources familiar with the agreement.
The draft deal comes with the military under pressure from a deteriorating economy and frequent protests that have continued despite a lethal crackdown by security forces.
The military takeover derailed a transition that had raised hopes in Sudan of an end to decades of autocracy, civil conflict and economic isolation after former president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a 2019 uprising.
Three sources from groups that back the draft deal, which has not been previously reported, said it had support from some political parties aligned with the military, former rebels who signed a peace deal in 2020, and some tribal and religious leaders.
It was drawn up by politicians close to the military and is acceptable to the military, said a fourth, senior source with knowledge of discussions around the deal.
It includes some steps that the military had already indicated it would take, such as the appointment of a technocratic cabinet and parliament to govern until elections expected next year, and the nomination of judicial bodies and an election commission.
It also elevates the military as Sudan's paramount authority, diverging sharply from the power-sharing enshrined after Bashir's overthrow in a Constitutional Declaration that remained a reference point even after the coup.
"The military is the institutional authority and overseer of the transition, and takes on the powers of the Security and Defence Council, similar to the experience of the April 1986 transition," the document says, referring to a previous interregnum when the military ruled for a year before elections.
Representatives of the military declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Political parties that strongly supported the 2019 uprising and neighbourhood resistance committees leading the current protests have publicly refused dialogue with the military, demanding it quit politics.
Protesters gathered in the capital Khartoum and other cities once more on Wednesday, the anniversary of a sit-in that culminated with Bashir’s overthrow.
The three sources said the military was still seeking to broaden support for the draft deal by courting Sudan's two largest traditional parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Umma Party, or factions within them.
Last week, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met the DUP leader during a visit to Cairo. The DUP also held a conference in the Egyptian capital seeking to unify its disparate factions.
Burhan recently said the military would hand over power only after elections, and threatened to expel a United Nations envoy trying to facilitate a political agreement alongside the African Union. Ambassadors from the United States, Britain, and Norway said on Tuesday they had held a "frank and constructive conversation" with Burhan, expressing support for dialogue leading to a "credible civilian transitional government".
Western powers have said that such a government is a key condition for any restoration of billions of dollars in international economic support for Sudan suspended after the coup.
The draft deal says political prisoners would be released as a confidence-building measure, a pledge that had also been made in a short-lived deal struck one month after the coup to bring back Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister.
Among those currently held are leaders of the Forces of Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC), which shared power with the military before the coup. They were members of a task force that worked to dismantle the political, bureaucratic and financial apparatus that ran Sudan under Bashir's iron rule.
The agreement orders the review of the task force's work, a process that Burhan has already launched. Many people fired by the task force have recently been reinstated by court order to posts in state media, the foreign ministry, justice department and other institutions.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which led anti-Bashir protests, warned that his dissolved National Congress Party (NCP) was beginning to hold meetings again and reorganise.
The military, which said political infighting necessitated its takeover, has repeatedly said that all groups except the NCP should be free to participate in the transition and elections.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis, editing by Mark Heinrich)