Sudan protest leaders to name ruling council

US sending envoy to country to encourage military council to hand over power to civilian body

KHARTOUM • Protest leaders have announced plans to unveil a civilian body to take over from Sudan's ruling military council as crowds of demonstrators kept up the pressure outside army headquarters and Washington said it will send an envoy to encourage the transition.

The military council, which took power after ousting Sudan's longtime 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 yesterday that the civilian council members would be named at a news conference at 1700 GMT tomorrow (1am on Monday in Singapore) 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," Mr Ahmed al-Rabia, a leader of the umbrella group of unions for doctors, engineers and teachers, told Agence France-Presse.

Four months after anti-regime protests started, access roads were packed yesterday with crowds flocking to the huge square outside army headquarters. Activists mobilised demonstrators through social media to keep up the pressure for replacing the military council, now led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

"Power to civilians, power to civilians," protesters chanted through Thursday night.

Activists have called for large crowds to gather after weekly Muslim prayers, as on previous Fridays.

 
 
 
 

Protests first broke out on Dec 19 in response to the tripling of bread prices, swiftly turning into nationwide rallies against Mr Bashir's three-decade rule.

After his ouster, protesters demonstrated against General Awad Ibn Ouf who took over as the first head of the military council, insisting he was a tool of the old regime.

Gen Ibn Ouf stepped down in less than 24 hours and was replaced by Gen Burhan, who so far has appeased protesters by lifting a night-time curfew and vowing to "uproot" Mr Bashir's circle.

The United States on Thursday praised orders by Sudan's new military leader to free political prisoners and end the curfew as it dispatched Ms Makila James, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, on a mission to Khartoum this weekend.

The US will "calibrate our policies based on our assessment of events", State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said, adding however that talks on delisting Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism remained suspended.

"We are encouraged by the decision to release political prisoners and cancel the curfew in Khartoum," she said in a statement.

"The will of the Sudanese people is clear: It is time to move towards a transitional government that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law."

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington's short-term goal was to "get the military folks out of centre-stage" and "back to being responsible for security, nothing else".

"Longer term is to make absolutely sure that whichever group is going to be responsible for the transition prepares a transition implementation that will lead to a truly democratic government that will reflect the will of the Sudanese people," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'Sudan protest leaders to name ruling council'. Print Edition | Subscribe