Sudan protesters stand firm demanding civilian transition

Sudanese protesters, with the support of the African Union regional bloc, continue to pressure the country’s new military council to hand over power to a civilian authority following last week’s ousting of long-standing leader Omar al-Bashir. The Sudanese Professionals Association had on Monday warned of attempts to disperse the ongoing sit-in demonstration outside the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum.

Sudanese protesters rally in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum at sunset, 15 April 2019.
Sudanese protesters rally in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum at sunset, 15 April 2019. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP

“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, according to the AFP news agency.

A strong-worded statement from the African Union bloc on Monday said the “military take-over is not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people”.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) spearheaded months of protests across Sudan leading to the fall of Bashir and creation of a ruling military council now headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The SPA has proposed creating a civilian transitional authority with a presidential council, council of ministers and legislative council comprising 100 members, according to Hafiz Mohamed from the Justice Africa Sudan group.

“That’s the shape of the proposed government they want to implement,” said Mohamed, describing demands presented to the military. “The army are refusing, they said they will not hand that to the protesters,” he added.

“Any attempt to water down the changes is going to be faced by a strong resistance from the young men and women who are determined to stay the course,” said Mohamed, director of the research and advocacy group.

Q&A: Hafiz Mohamed

Witnesses said security forces on Monday had surrounded the protest area and begun dismantling barricades erected by the demonstrators, the AFP news agency reported. The SPA also warned of attempts to disperse the protest.

“They are not in a position to force them out,” said Mohamed, referring of a potential move by the military to stop the sit-in. “The military council itself is still shaking, it’s not actually confident enough in what they’re doing, there are too many problems,” he added, saying any possible dispersal by force would only encourage more rigorous protests.

Protesters have also demanded changes within the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). A new NISS head and army chief of staff have been appointed following the resignation of chief Salih Ghosh on Saturday.

“The role they [the NISS] used to take, which is controlling the state totally, everything they have is taken – selecting ministers, running the economy – that is going to end,” said Mohamed, explaining how the feared intelligence agency should be dismantled.

Another key demand of demonstrators is that Bashir and his inner circle face justice. The military council has already said it is going to investigate alleged corruption and crimes committed during his rule. However, there are questions about the reach and potential impact of any probe led by the army.

“The generals themselves are not blameless and this is why they will try their best to protect the regime leaders and that means protecting themselves,” Mohamed said in a telephone interview from Khartoum. “But some sort of justice is going to happen because the pressure for justice is going to continue, people are not going to keep quiet.”

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