Huge crowd floods Khartoum, demands military cede power

Updated April 26, 2019

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KHARTOUM: Protesters gather for a march on Thursday. — AFP
KHARTOUM: Protesters gather for a march on Thursday. — AFP

KHARTOUM: Tens of thousands of protesters converged from all directions on Sudan’s army headquarters Thursday after calls for a “million-strong” demonstration to demand the ruling military council cede power.

The day after three council members resigned following talks with protest organisers, demonstrators flocked towards the central Khartoum site on Thursday evening, beating drums and singing revolutionary songs, said a journalist at the scene.

“We want the military council out. We want a civilian government,” said protester Adam Ahmed, a medical student.

The rally came after Sudan’s new military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee, to chart the way forward two weeks after the ouster of veteran president Omar al-Bashir.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella group leading the protests, had called for a million-strong march to “continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved”.

Also at the protest were dozens of judges, dressed in their robes, who had marched from the constitutional court, a photographer said. “We are here to give a message that the judiciary should be independent without any political intervention,” a judge told journalists.

A photographer in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters had gathered earlier outside Egypt’s embassy and consulate, which were surrounded by riot police.

Several people held banners calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi not to “interfere in our affairs”, after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders who said more time was needed for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan.

Across the city, demonstrators arrived at the army headquarters from the states of Jazeera, White Nile and also from Bashir’s hometown Shendi, boosting the ranks of those already camped at the site, many of them for the past several weeks.

The giant rally followed a late-night meeting between the military council and leaders of the protest movement’s umbrella group.

“We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the military council, told reporters afterwards.

He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there “were no big disputes”.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which initially spearheaded months of protests against Bashir, described the meeting as a step towards “confidence-building”.

“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country towards peace and stability,” the SPA said on Thursday.

Writing on Twitter, the association said a “joint committee” was being set up to “discuss outstanding disputes” as part of efforts to reach a “comprehensive agreement”.

On Thursday, activist Ahmed Najdi said he was expecting “a joint military-civilian sovereign council, which I think is the middle path and most protesters would agree to that”.

Wednesday’s meeting was followed by the military council announcing three members of the ruling body had stepped down after demands from protesters.

Siddiq Farouk, a protest leader, said demonstrators were preparing for a general strike if the military council continues to refuse to hand over power.

The council, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2019