Protesters in Sudan demand civilian rule

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Sudan’s main protest group demanded immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government, saying it would keep up street demonstrations which ousted former President Omar al-Bashir to achieve its aims.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) called for the establishment of a transitional council protected by the armed forces, adding it would exert “all forms of peaceful pressure to achieve the objectives of the revolution”.

The military council that replaced Bashir, ousted on Thursday by the military after three decades in power, announced new decisions on Sunday including retirement of Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf. He and his deputy resigned as head of the transition council after assuming the positions following Bashir’s exit.

The council appointed Lieutenant General Abu Bakr Mustafa as intelligence chief, succeeding Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, known as Salah Gosh, who resigned on Friday.

It did not name a successor to Ibn Auf.

The transitional council spokesman told a news conference in Khartoum the military was ready to work with opposition groups to establish a civilian government.

“The ball is now in the political forces’ court when it comes to the prime minister or a government,” Shams El Din Kabbashi said.

“If they are ready to approve anything, we are ready to implement it,” he added.

Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abideen, also a council member, said the opposition would have a week to submit suggestions.

The head of the military council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, earlier said the council invited the opposition parties and protest organisers for a meeting.

The SPA and other main opposition parties, which make up a group known as the Forces for Freedom and Change, said they did not attend the meeting.

“We were not invited to this meeting … we will submit our suggestions for the government to the military council,” a spokesman for SPA told Reuters.

A Reuters witness said the meeting was attended by largely unknown politicians and parliamentarians known to be loyal to Bashir’s party.

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

Kabbashi said there were orders by the former regime to disperse the sit-in “at whatever cost,” but the military refused and will continue to protect protesters.

“DEFEND THE REVOLUTION”

Several thousand protesters continued the sit-in outside the Defence Ministry and for the first time state television showed footage of people marching and chanting in the streets, while a presenter congratulated their “revolution”.

SPA, which demanded civilians be included on the transitional military council and for Bashir’s close associates to leave, called for the arrest of prominent National Intelligence and Security Service generals, including its former head Salah Gosh and the removal of the prosecutor general.

It also called for the arrest of Bashir, who the army has already detained.

Kabbashi said a committee would take over the former ruling party’s assets and Sudan’s ambassadors to Washington, a former intelligence chief, and to Geneva, a former foreign minister, were sacked.

He added the military council would release all army and police officers who participated in demonstrations.

Up to four thousand people were still camped out on Sunday, a Reuters witness said, fewer than in previous days, with some people returning to work.

After deadly clashes at the sit-in last week, the atmosphere was relaxed, with soldiers drinking tea and chatting with protesters.

“We are at our sit-in until we hear from the army. We will defend the revolution from hijacking,” Mouawiya Mubarak, a 21-year-old student, said.

“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.