Sudan protesters demand ‘immediate’ civilian rule

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KHARTOUM, April 15, 2019 (AFP) – Sudanese protesters on Sunday demanded
the country’s military rulers “immediately” hand power over to a civilian
government that should then bring ousted leader Omar al-Bashir to justice.

Thousands remained encamped outside Khartoum’s army headquarters to keep
up pressure on a military council that took power after ousting Bashir on
Thursday.

The organisation that spearheaded the protests against Bashir, the
Sudanese Professionals Association, called on the council “to immediately
transfer power to a civilian government”.

The SPA also demanded the next “transitional government and the armed
forces bring Bashir and all the chiefs of the National Intelligence and
Security Service (NISS)… to justice”.

“The Sudanese Professionals Association calls on its supporters to
continue with the sit-in until the revolution achieves its demands,” it
added.

The military council later held a press conference at which its spokesman
did not respond to the protesters’ latest demands. Instead it announced the
appointment of a new intelligence chief.

Earlier the military council met with political parties and urged them to
agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister, an AFP correspondent
present at the meeting said.

“We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice and
democracy,” a council member, Lieutenant General Yasser al-Ata, told several
political parties, urging them to agree on the figures to sit in civilian
government.

The protesters have insisted civilian representatives must join the
military council.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered their demands
during talks with the council late Saturday, according to a statement by the
Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group spearheading the rallies.

The foreign ministry urged the international community to back the
military council “to achieve the Sudanese goal of democratic transition”.

It said council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was “committed to
having a complete civilian government and the role of the council will be to
maintain the sovereignty of the country”.

Talks between protest leaders and Sudan’s new rulers were followed Sunday
by a meeting between Washington’s top envoy to Khartoum, Steven Koutsis, and
the military council’s deputy.

Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Himeidti, told Koutsis “about the
measures taken by the military council to preserve the security and stability
of the country,” the official SUNA news agency reported.

Himeidti is a field commander for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) counter-
insurgency unit, which rights groups have accused of abuses in the war-torn
Darfur region.

– Burhan talks the talk –

On Saturday, the military council’s new chief General Burhan vowed to
dismantle Bashir’s regime, lifting a night-time curfew with immediate effect.

He also pledged that individuals implicated in killing protesters would
face justice and that protesters detained under a state of emergency imposed
by Bashir during his final weeks in power would be freed.

Burhan took the oath of office on Friday after his predecessor General
Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down little more than 24 hours after Bashir’s ouster.

The United States, Britain and Norway said Sunday it was time for Sudan’s
military rulers and other parties to hold talks over the country’s transition
to civilian rule.

“This must be done credibly and swiftly, with protest leaders, political
opposition, civil society organisations, and all relevant elements of
society, including women,” the embassies of the three countries said in a
statement.

Tens of thousands of people have massed non-stop outside the army
headquarters since April 6, initially to urge the military to back their
demand that Bashir be removed.

Burhan comes with less baggage from Bashir’s deeply unpopular rule than
Ibn Ouf, a former defence minister and longtime close aide of the deposed
president.

But while celebrating the fall of both men in quick succession, protesters
remain cautious.

Protest leaders say their demands include restructuring the country’s
feared NISS agency, whose chief Salih Ghosh resigned on Saturday.

On Sunday night, the council announced the appointment of Lieutenant
General Abu Baker Mustafa as the new head of NISS in a televised announcement
in which it also announced the sacking of Khartoum’s envoy to Washington
Mohamed Atta.

– Saudi, UAE support –

The newly formed 10-member transitional council contains several faces
from Bashir’s regime.

On Saturday evening, the new military ruler named NISS deputy head
Jalaluddin Sheikh to the council, with Himeidti as its deputy head.

“Himeidti was part of the crimes that happened previously, but at least
now he is on the side of the people,” said Mohamed, a protester outside the
army headquarters who gave only his first name for security reasons.

Key regional power brokers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have
voiced support for the transitional council.

Sudan is part of a UAE and Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iran-
backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

But Qatar, which wielded some influence over Bashir’s regime before
Khartoum joined ranks with Riyadh in Yemen, has remained silent on the
protests.

The gas-rich country is locked in a nearly two-year-old diplomatic
standoff with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

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