Sudanese protesters await military’s response on transition demands


KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Several thousand Sudanese protesters continued a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry on Sunday as they pressured the military to accelerate a transition towards civilian rule.

Sudanese demonstrators gather to celebrate after Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf stepped down as head of the country’s transitional ruling military council, as protesters demanded quicker political change, near the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The head of the military council that replaced former President Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted on Thursday after three decades in power, has said a civilian government will be formed after consultations with the opposition.

The main organizer of protests that led to Bashir’s ouster, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), has demanded that civilians be included on the transitional military council and has pressed for Bashir’s close associates to leave.

It has called for a restructuring of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the dissolution of militia forces that operated under Bashir.

The sit-in, which began on April 6, was the culmination of a protest movement that began nearly four months ago, triggered by a worsening economic crisis.

Up to four thousand people were still camped out on Sunday morning, a Reuters witness said, slightly fewer than on previous days. People were starting to go back to work for the first time in days.

There were deadly clashes at the sit-in last week, but the atmosphere on Sunday was relaxed, with soldiers deployed in the area drinking tea and chatting with protesters.

“We are at our sit-in until we hear the response from the army to the professionals’ association demands,” said Mouawiya Mubarak, 21, a student. “We will defend the revolution from hijacking.”

“Our demands are clear and have not yet been achieved, why would we go home? Our sit-in is the most powerful weapon in our hands,” the SPA said in a tweet.

On Friday, Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf, who announced Bashir’s ouster and arrest, stepped down after just one day as head of the military council. On Saturday, state media reported that the head of the NISS, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh – better known as Salah Gosh – had also resigned.

The new head of the council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman, has said the transition period will last for a maximum of two years. He has canceled an overnight curfew and ordered the release of all prisoners jailed under emergency laws put in place by Bashir.

Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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