Sudan on Thursday marks one week since the army ousted president Omar al-Bashir after protests against his 30-year rule, but the “revolution” remains unfinished as demonstrators campaign against their new military leaders. On April 11, the army removed Bashir as tens of thousands of protesters camped outside its headquarters in central Khartoum demanding support in toppling the veteran ruler.
“This is the first week in my life that I have lived without Bashir,” said Tariq Ahmed, 28, an engineer from Khartoum. “I’m proud of what my generation has done to the dictator.”
Bashir, 75, swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and headed a brutal regime for three decades. His rule saw conflicts across the country, the south splitting away to become a separate nation, and regular arrests of opposition leaders, activists, and journalists.
Protest leaders say they asked for a joint military-civil council, but what they got was a full military council with many faces from the same regime. They have now hardened their demands.
Protests initially began on December 19 in response to the tripling of bread prices, but swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against the autocrat. Cities, towns, and villages echoed with chants of “freedom, peace, justice,” and “just fall, that’s all”.
Bashir faces charges from the International Criminal Court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the conflict in Darfur. But despite detaining him, the military has ruled out sending him to The Hague. On Tuesday night he was moved to the capital’s Kober prison, a family source told AFP.
Demand for Civilian Rule
Seven days on from Bashir’s ouster, the army complex in Khartoum now reverberates with demonstrators demanding the dissolution of the military council that replaced him. His defence minister General Awad Ibn Ouf took power as chief of the body but he too was ousted within 24 hours following intense pressure from the street.
The council is now headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a veteran soldier but someone who is largely unknown outside of the army. Protest leaders say they asked for a joint military-civil council, but what they got was a full military council with many faces from the same regime. They have now hardened their demands.
“We want the military council to be dissolved and be replaced by a civilian council having representatives of the army,” said Mohamed Naji, a senior leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that launched the anti-Bashir campaign.
This civilian council should then make way for a four-year transitional civilian government, protest organisers say. “It is increasingly clear that the revolution is still unfinished,” Alan Boswell, an analyst with International Crisis Group told AFP.
It’s true that Bashir is the symbol of the regime, but I believe that we are still in the middle of the road, said Erij Salah, 23. We have to fight until we get rid of this regime.
“The security cabal which still has power in Sudan is clearly resisting demands that would force it to cede its own power.” He said protesters are not wrong when they say that those who took power in the military council are from the same ruling elite. “That’s not to say there hasn’t been a change,” Boswell said.
In addition to the departure of Bashir and his immediate successor Ibn Ouf, Salah Ghosh, the feared head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), has resigned. He oversaw the crackdown on protesters that left more than 60 people dead, hundreds wounded and thousands jailed.
Now the reaction of the military council to the growing pressure from protesters and the international community looks set to be crucial. “I don’t think we are anywhere close to the end of the road yet,” Boswell said. “We are hitting pretty dangerous waters”.
Get Rid of Regime
Both Western powers and the rest of Africa have pushed for greater change in Sudan. The United States, United Kingdom, and Norway have urged the military council to hold an “inclusive dialogue” to usher in civilian rule. And the 55-member African Union on Monday threatened to suspend Sudan if the military fails to hand over power to civilians within 15 days.
The continental body said, “a military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan”. The military council has offered concessions to protesters, including sacking the prosecutor general as demanded. But protesters, although singing and dancing in a festival-like atmosphere outside the sprawling military complex, remain clear about what they want.
“It’s true that Bashir is the symbol of the regime, but I believe that we are still in the middle of the road,” said Erij Salah, 23. “We have to fight until we get rid of this regime.”
© Agence France-Presse