Sudan protest leaders demand scrapping of military council

KHARTOUM (AFP): Sudanese protest organisers on Monday demanded the new military council be scrapped, as demonstrators kept up calls for a civilian government at a sit-in outside army headquarters.

Thousands of demonstrators have continued to rally in support of demands for civilian rule, despite an apparent attempt to disperse them following the ouster last week of veteran president Omar al-Bashir.

“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 organisation which spearheaded months of protests leading to Bashir’s fall also demanded the sacking of the country’s judiciary chief and prosecutor general.

The SPA’s latest demands came as the military council faced mounting public and diplomatic pressure to hand over power to a civilian administration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for “a rapid transfer of power to a civilian transitional government,” in a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“This must be followed by a credible, inclusive political process that meets the expectations of the Sudanese people with regard to economic and political reforms,” her office said in a statement.

Sisi meanwhile reiterated Egypt’s support for “the brotherly Sudanese people’s will” and said Cairo would “not interfere in its internal affairs”, according to a presidential statement.

Their comments come a day after the Khartoum embassies of Britain, the United States and Norway issued a joint statement calling for “inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule”.

  • ‘We are not moving’ –

Outside army headquarters crowds remained camped outside the complex, despite SPA warnings of “an attempt to disperse the sit-in”.

“We call on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area to protect our revolution,” the SPA said in a statement, without saying who was responsible.

Witnesses said several army vehicles had surrounded the area and that troops were seen removing the barricades which demonstrators had put up as a security measure.

“I felt frustrated when they tried to break the sit-in, but I still trust the army because it’s not possible that they would give up on protesters,” said demonstrator Mohamed al-Fatih.

Portraits of people killed in the months of rallies covered the facades of several buildings in the area.

“Until we see tangible results, we are not moving from here,” said protester Abdulhadi Hajj Ahmed.

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

But in a news conference, the council’s spokesman did not respond to the protesters’ demands.

  • Shake-up at the top –

The military council however met with political parties on Sunday, urging them to agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister, an AFP correspondent 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 members of several political parties.

The foreign ministry said military council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was “committed to having a complete civilian government” and urged other nations to back the council in order to achieve “the Sudanese goal of democratic transition”.

Burhan has pledged that individuals implicated in killing protesters would be held to account and that demonstrators detained under a state of emergency imposed by the president during his final weeks in power would be freed.

The SPA says Bashir must also face justice, along with officials from his feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) whose chief Salih Ghosh resigned on Saturday.

As part of the shake-up at the top, a new NISS head and army chief of staff have been appointed.

Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was deposed last week following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.

The SPA has additionally called for the confiscation of properties belonging to the ousted president’s National Congress Party and the release of soldiers who sided with their movement.

Late on Sunday, the military council said it has set up a committee to register NCP properties and seize control of them.