Sudanese protest leaders on Friday announced plans to unveil a civilian body to take over from the ruling military council as huge crowds demonstrated outside army headquarters. The military council, which took power after ousting long-time leader Omar al-Bashir on April 11, has so far resisted calls from protesters to quickly make way for a civilian administration.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading the protests, said in a statement that it would name members of the council at a news conference at 1700 GMT on Sunday outside the army complex, to which foreign diplomats are also invited.
“We are demanding that this civilian council, which will have representatives of the army, replace the military council,” Ahmed al-Rabia, a leader of the umbrella group of unions for doctors, engineers, and teachers, told AFP.
Ibn Ouf stepped down in less than 24 hours and was replaced by Burhan, who so far has appeased protesters by lifting a night-time curfew and vowing to “uproot” Bashir’s circle.
Friday marked four months to the day when first protest was triggered in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread. The protests soon escalated into widespread rallies demanding Bashir’s departure. Access roads were packed, with crowds flocking to the huge square outside army headquarters to offer the weekly Muslim prayers.
“This government should be a representative of all the people and their aspirations,” said prominent cleric Sheikh Matter Younis as he addressed thousands of protesters. “It should include all Sudanese people and shouldn’t exclude anyone.”
Braving scorching heat, protesters kept on chanting, dancing and singing to rhythmic African and Arabic tunes. Women handed out traditional Sudanese sweet and sour juice to protesters, encouraging them to press on with their demonstration. “We will keep distributing juice for free even if we are losing money,” said Neserine Hassan, 28.
He is a Criminal
Protester Yasser Dahab said all who had committed crimes against the Sudanese people be put on trial. He said he wanted to see a civilian council with a prime minister and a government led by technocrats.
“This government can then prepare for free elections in two years with participation from all parties,” Dahab told AFP. “The military should stay away from political life.” Later as the evening set in, more people flocked to the site to spend the night.
Calls for Bashir to face justice also came from the country’s war-torn Darfur. “He is a criminal,” said Hawwa Yousef, who lives in a camp in the region after fleeing from her village in 2004 when it was attacked. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over the conflict that the UN says killed 300,000 people, but the military has resisted sending the detained ex-leader to The Hague.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington’s short-term goal was to “get the military folks out of center-stage” and “back to being responsible for security, nothing else”.
Activists on Thursday mobilised huge crowds through social media to keep up the pressure on the military council, now led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to cede power. “I won’t leave until Burhan transfers power to a civilian government,” said Wali Aldeen, who has camped outside the complex since the day Bashir fell.
Military out of Center-Stage
Following Bashir’s ouster, demonstrations targeted General Awad Ibn Ouf, the first head of the military council, seen by protestors as a tool of the old regime. Ibn Ouf stepped down in less than 24 hours and was replaced by Burhan, who so far has appeased protesters by lifting a night-time curfew and vowing to “uproot” Bashir’s circle. The United States on Thursday praised orders by Sudan’s new military leader to free political prisoners and end the curfew.
It also dispatched Makila James, a deputy assistant secretary of state, on a mission to Khartoum this weekend. The United States will “calibrate our policies based on our assessment of events”, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said, but added talks on delisting Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism remained suspended. She welcomed the release of political prisoners but urged the military to “show restraint, avoid conflict and remain committed to the protection of the Sudanese people.”
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington’s short-term goal was to “get the military folks out of center-stage” and “back to being responsible for security, nothing else”. The official called for transitional authorities to prepare the way for “a truly democratic government that will reflect the will of the Sudanese people”, he said.
© Agence France-Presse