Sudan protesters demand swift civilian rule after 'revolution'

  • 14 Apr 2019

Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA) called for the establishment of a transitional council which would be protected by the armed forces, adding it would exert "all forms of peaceful pressure to achieve the objectives of the revolution".

Sudanese demonstrators protest outside the Defence Ministry as soldiers sit on a wall of a military compound in Khartoum, Sudan April 14, 2019. ( Reuters )

Sudan's main protest group demanded the immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government on Sunday, saying it would keep up the street demonstrations which ousted former president Omar al Bashir last week to achieve its aims.

Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA) called for the establishment of a transitional council which would be protected by the armed forces, adding it would exert "all forms of peaceful pressure to achieve the objectives of the revolution".

The head of the military council that replaced Bashir, who was ousted on Thursday after three decades in power, has said a civilian government will be formed after talks with the opposition in Sudan.

A sit-in in the Sudanese capital, which began on April 6, was the culmination of a protest movement that began nearly four months ago, triggered by a worsening economic crisis.

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan Abdelrahman called a meeting on Sunday which was largely attended by unknown politicians and parliamentarians who are known to b e loyal to Bashir's party, a Reuters witness said.

It did not include SPA and the other main opposition parties, which together make up a group known as the Forces for Freedom and Change.

"We were not invited to this meeting ... we will submit our suggestions for the government to the military council," a spokesman for SPA told Reuters.

Lieutenant General Yasser Atta, a member of the military council, said they had hoped the opposition would come together to choose an independent candidate for prime minister, while another member of the council said they would give the opposition one week to submit their suggestions.

"Defend the revolution"

Several thousand protesters continued a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry and for the first time state television showed footage of people marching and chanting in the streets, while a TV presenter congratulated their "revolution".

SPA, which had demanded that civilians be included on the transitional military council and for Bashir's close associates to leave, called for the arrest of prominent National Intelligence and Security Service generals, including its former head Salah Gosh, and for the removal of the prosecutor general.

It also called for the arrest of Bashir, whom the army has said it has already detained.

TRT World's Arabella Munro reports.

Up to four thousand people were still camped out on Sunday, a Reuters witness said, slightly fewer than on previous days, with some people returning to work for the first time in days.

After deadly clashes at the sit-in last week, the atmosphere was relaxed, with soldiers drinking tea and chatting with protesters.

"We are at our sit-in until we hear the response from the army to the ... demands. We will defend the revol ution from hijacking," Mouawiya Mubarak, a 21-year-old student, said.

"Our demands are clear and have not yet been achieved, why would we go home? Our sit-in is the most powerful weapon in our hands," the SPA said in a tweet.

TRT World's Natasha Hussein reports.

Defence Minister Awad Ibn Ouf, who announced Bashir's ouster and arrest, stepped down after just one day as head of the military council on Friday.

Burhan, the new head of the council, has said the transition period will last for a maximum of two years.

Khartoum erupted with joy when Ibn Ouf tendered his resignation on Friday night barely 24 hours after taking the oath of office.

But protest organisers urged demonstrators to keep up their week-old vigil outside army headquarters.

Ibn Ouf had served as Bashir's defence minister right up to the president's downfall, ending three decades of iron-fisted rule.

A former military intelligence chief, Ibn Ouf remains under US sanctions for his role in the regime' s brutal response to a 2003 ethnic minority rebellion in Darfur region.

Bashir himself came to power in a 1989 military coup, toppling an elected government led by Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Burhan comes with less baggage from Bashir's deeply unpopular rule than Ibn Ouf.

The grass-roots Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) composed of doctors, teachers and engineers, has spearheaded the nationwide protests.

While welcoming Ibn Ouf's departure, it demanded that Burhan swiftly "transfer the powers of the military council to a transitional civilian government" and said it would continue to stage sit-ins to that end.

'Violating the constitution'

Bashir remained in custody and his National Congress Party on Saturday urged the military council to release arrested members.

"We consider (the) taking of power by the military council as violating the constitution's legitimacy," the NCP said in a statement.

"The NCP rejects the detention of its leaders, among them its acting president" Ahmed Harun, it added, calling for their immediate release.

Outside the Middle East, the formation of a military government to replace Bashir has met with widespread criticism.

The African Union said Bashir's overthrow by the military was "not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people".

The Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) called for dialogue and a peaceful transition of power, in a joint statement from their summit in Ndjamena, Chad.

The European Union urged the army to carry out a "swift" handover to civilian rule, and former colonial ruler Britain said that the two-year transition announced by the military "is not the answer."

"We need to see a swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership," said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

But Saudi Arabia backed the transitional military council and promised an aid package including, wheat, medicine and "petroleum products", the Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday.

Members of the military council have sought to reassure foreign diplomats about its intentions.

"This is not a military coup, but taking the side of the people," the council's political chief Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin told Arab and African diplomats at a meeting broadcast on state television on Friday.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has longstanding arrest warrants against Bashir for suspected genocide and war crimes during the regime's brutal campaign of repression in Darfur.

But the military council has said it would never extradite him or any other Sudanese citizen.