Khartoum (AFP) -
Nearly a month after Sudan's top general ousted the prime minister, they signed a breakthrough deal Sunday to reverse the military takeover that had sparked international condemnation and mass protests.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan appeared at the presidential palace in Khartoum for a televised ceremony with a haggard looking premier Abdalla Hamdok, who had just been freed from house arrest.
The 14-point deal restores the transition to civilian rule that had been derailed by the October 25 putsch, which threw the poverty-stricken northeast African country into renewed turmoil and set off a wave of street protests.
The agreement, which comes after weeks of crisis talks involving Sudanese and outside players, declared that 'the decision of the general commander of the armed forces to relieve the transitional prime minister is cancelled' and to release all political detainees.
It raised hopes Sudan will be able to return to its fragile transition process toward full democracy that started after the 2019 ouster of veteran autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.
Despite the breakthrough, thousands of protesters again rallied in several cities, met by security forces who fired teargas in the capital -- the latest of a series of protests that, medics say, have claimed 40 lives.
A frail looking Hamdok was seen on air extolling the virtues of the 'revolution' that brought him to power in 2019.
Standing beside him, Burhan thanked Hamdok for his service and vowed that 'free and transparent elections' would be held as part of the transitional process.
'He (Hamdok) was patient with us until we reached this moment,' Burhan said before posing for photos with his deputy Hamdan Daglo, head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, and the newly restored PM holding copies of the inked agreement.
- Opposition reject deal -
Burhan had on October 25 declared a state of emergency and ousted the government in a move that upended the two-year transition to civilian rule and sparked international condemnation.
But after weeks of intense internal and international pressure, mediators on Sunday morning announced that the military had reached an agreement to reinstate Hamdok as premier.
However, the main civilian bloc which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests and signed a 2019 power-sharing deal with the military rejected Sunday's agreement.
'We affirm our clear and previously declared position that there is no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy for the coup,' said the mainstream faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change in a statement.
The deal announcement came as pro-democracy activists launched the latest in a wave of mass protests to denounce the coup and the ensuing crackdown, in which medics say 16 people were killed last Wednesday alone.
Police deny firing live ammunition and insist they have used 'minimum force' to disperse the protests. They have recorded only one death, among demonstrators in North Khartoum.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters also gathered in Khartoum's twin city Omdurman, as well as in the eastern state of Kassala, the restive eastern coastal city of Port Sudan and the northern city of Atbara, according to witnesses.
- History of coups -
Sudan, which is mired in a dire economic crisis, has a long history of military coups, having enjoyed only rare interludes of democratic rule since independence in 1956.
The return of Hamdok, a British-educated economist who has worked for the United Nations and African organisations, has been a key demand of the international community.
Burhan, who served under Bashir's three-decades long rule, become Sudan's de facto leader after the army ousted and jailed the president in 2019.
The veteran general headed the Sovereign Council of military and civilian figures, with Hamdok as prime minister leading the cabinet.
But deepening splits and long-simmering tensions between the military and civilians marred the transition, and last month Burhan led the army takeover.
Burhan has insisted that the military's move 'was not a coup' but a step 'to rectify the transition'.
Earlier this month, he announced a new ruling council in which he kept his position as head, along with a powerful paramilitary commander, three senior military figures, three ex-rebel leaders and one civilian. But the other four civilian members were replaced with lesser known figures.