Sudan’s coup leader quits amid protesters’ calls for civilian rule

April 13, 2019

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Khartoum: Sudanese demonstrators gather near the defence ministry on Friday as they protest against the army’s announcement that President Omar al-Bashir would be replaced by a military-led transitional council.—Reuters
Khartoum: Sudanese demonstrators gather near the defence ministry on Friday as they protest against the army’s announcement that President Omar al-Bashir would be replaced by a military-led transitional council.—Reuters

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf said on Friday that he had decided to step down as head of the country’s transitional military council, a day after former president Omar al Bashir was overthrown in a coup.

Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan will be the new head of the transitional military council, Ibn Auf said in a speech broadcast on state television.

Gen Auf’s decision followed continued demonstrations in which protesters vowed to chase out the country’s new military rulers. The army offered talks on forming a civilian government after it ousted president Omar al Bashir.

But the military council warned it would tolerate no breaches of security, after protesters defied a night-time curfew following Bashir’s Thursday fall, keeping up their sit-in outside the army headquarters.

Thousands of men and women, dressed in white, also braved the searing Sudanese heat on Friday to offer prayers outside the sprawling complex, witnesses said. The imam leading the prayers was draped in the Sudanese flag. Hussein Mohamed, an elderly man from Omdurman, said he was attending the protest for the first time in response to a call to hold Friday prayers there.

“It is too, too hot but I’m impressed by what our young men and women are doing here,” he said. “I’ll surely come again.” Many Coptic Christians were also there, serving food and drinks to Muslims as they got ready for prayers. Some also brought mats for the worshippers.

The head of the military council’s political committee, Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, confirmed that a day after he was deposed, Bashir remained in custody.

The army takeover brought to an end 30 years of rule by Bashir, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders.

But Abdin said the council would never extradite him or any other Sudanese citizen.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has a longstanding arrest warrant against Bashir for suspected genocide and war crimes.

The military council had announced a two-year transition period, but Sudan’s UN envoy told the Security Council in New York that this could be shortened “depending on developments on the ground and agreements between stakeholders”.

Protesters have held mass demonstrations for four months demanding Bashir’s overthrow, defying repeated deadly attempts by riot police and the feared intelligence services to crush them. But when his overthrow was finally announced on Thursday in an address to the nation, by Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf, it was met not with joy but anger.

Protest leaders have dismissed the transitional military council as the “same old faces” from the regime which led the country into multiple conflicts along with worsening poverty and social inequality.

Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything”, said one protester who gave his name only as Adel.

“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir.” Analysts said Bashir’s overthrow in a “palace coup” made the transition to democracy in Sudan a more distant prospect.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019