KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) — Khartoum’s prime minister signed a peace deal with the Sudanese military on Saturday, state media reported, defusing a political crisis that had left thousands of citizens protesting the government’s moves against dissent.
The prime minister, Awad Ali Awad, was formerly defense minister and his signing of the deal is the latest concession the government has made in an effort to placate demonstrators.
Last week, several hundred people calling for the resignation of the government marched to Khartoum’s main Tahrir Square to demonstrate. Security forces fired live ammunition and rubber bullets at the crowd, as well as using tear gas, cutting off access to the square.
Opposition leaders and activists said the protesters were peaceful, however the government argued that the protesters started the confrontation.
Saturday’s prime minister’s post, previously held by Ismail Omar El-Gindi, was created to facilitate talks between the government and Sudanese leaders of opposition movements.
According to state media, the prime minister said the government needed the help of other leaders and political parties to deal with the crisis.
He explained that the government had been working hard to meet the concerns of the protesters, but its efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed by demonstrators, adding that it was forced to take “tough decisions” in order to prevent the country from shedding blood.
“This is a natural reaction,” he said, citing the protest against the government’s fuel hikes and introduction of a new unified currency.
On Saturday, a tearful El-Gindi, dressed in a white traditional Khartoum robe, was among a host of Sudanese leaders who signed the peace deal with the Sudanese military.
They included, among others, the leadership of the National Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the National Umma Party Youth Movement, and other political groups.
Khaled Dawoud, one of the leaders of the opposition, praised El-Gindi, who stepped down as defense minister, for helping to de-escalate tensions and bring peace to Sudan.
“Prime Minister Awad led the prime minister’s bureau to agree and declare its readiness to save this country by putting an end to strife,” Dawoud said.
Sudan will allow citizens to retain the old Sudanese pounds in a new national currency that will be created once inflation settles.
The new currency will be managed by the central bank, which now has the authority to establish the value of the new currency and introduce it in the market.
In response to the opposition to the new currency, Khartoum police briefly detained the Sudanese National Umma Party’s central committee Saturday.
The demonstration has been growing, according to Dawoud, and Friday a group of about 2,000 gathered in the capital and marched to Tahrir Square. The demonstration was peaceful, he said, but the police acted forcefully when they entered the square.
“The situation is still very tense,” Dawoud said.
Dawoud said that most of the people in Khartoum are unhappy with the government and its handling of the crisis.
Beside calling for the prime minister’s resignation, the demonstrators have also called for the release of some prominent activists, including El-Gindi and human rights lawyer, Farah al-Dib, who is detained, Dawoud said.
Sudan is grappling with an inflation rate of about 130%, according to the World Bank. Prices have soared since the country introduced the new currency, and have not dropped despite the plunge in the value of the U.S. dollar.