Sudan’s generals and protest leaders agree to name a Coptic Orthodox woman to the 11-member transitional ruling council.
Aisha Musa Saeed was announced as the 11th member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council on Tuesday.
Both generals and protest leaders agreed on the Coptic Christian woman’s nomination to the ruling body, made up of 6 civilians and 5 soldiers. The council, which was sworn in on Wednesday, will govern Sudan for a little over 3 years until elections are held.
Ms Musa is a judge who also studied as a translator at the University of Leeds in the UK.
A spokesman for the now-disbanded transitional military council (TMC) announced the names at a press conference late Tuesday.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who headed to the TMC following the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in April, will lead the Sovereign Council for 21 months. At that point, a civilian leader appointed by protest leaders will take over for the remaining 18 months.
Christians’ role in protests
The decision to add a Coptic woman to the council could be viewed as a nod to the role Christians played in the protest movement.
On 10 April 2019, the day before the military arrested Bashir, the Sudanese Professionals Association called on Christians to take part in the protests, saying they had suffered “sectarian and psychological restrictions for years”.
A few days later, several Protestant church leaders began showing up at a sit-in outside the military headquarters, urging both Christians and Muslims to sing hymns.
Persecution of Christians
Under Bashir’s 30-year rule, Christians faced persecution and harsh treatment. Open Doors, a US-based NGO, ranks Sudan 6th in its 2018 list of nations where it is hardest to be a Christian.
After South Sudan gained independence in 2011 – taking with it most of Sudan’s Christians – President Bashir led a crackdown on those remaining in the country.
Many Christian churches were burned, and dozens of others were demolished by the government as “unlicensed buildings”. No licenses were granted for new churches after 2013.
Christians make up about 4.6% of Sudan’s population of 43 million, according to the World Christian Database.