WED 17 - 7 - 2019
Apr 26, 2019
The Daily Star
Huge crowd floods Khartoum pushing for Sudan handover
KHARTOUM: A huge crowd massed outside Sudan’s Defense Ministry Thursday to demand civilian rule, challenging the Transitional Military Council that removed President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month to cede power.
A Reuters reporter estimated the crowd to number hundreds of thousands. They were responding to a call by the Sudanese Professionals Association, the main organizer of protests including a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry compound that began on April 6, for a million people to join the march.
Many of those rallying chanted “Blood for blood! We will not accept compensation!” demanding punishment for officials responsible for killings during Bashir’s iron-fisted, three-decade rule.
Earlier, about 100 Sudanese judges demanding civilian rule walked from the Supreme Court in Khartoum toward the sit-in, joining anti-government protests for the first time, a Reuters witness said.
Wearing their black robes, some of the judges carried signs reading “judges for change” as they marched through central Khartoum to the Defense Ministry, the witness said. “Civilian, civilian, protected by the judiciary,” they chanted.
Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and the opposition have been at loggerheads over how long it will take to move to civilian rule after the military ousted Bashir on April 11 following months of protests against his 30-year rule.
The military then established the TMC to run Sudan for a period of up to two years.
Thursday’s march was the first by judges in Sudan since before Bashir took power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
“We demand reform of the judiciary until justice prevails and corruption is prosecuted,” Appeals Judge Abu al-Fattah Mohammad Othman told Reuters. “We demand the removal of symbols of the former regime from the judiciary and the dismissal of the head of the judiciary to achieve justice.”
Shortly after the judges’ march began, the TMC announced it would retain “sovereign authority only,” while civilians would hold the post of prime minister and head all government ministries.
“The Transitional Military Council has the sovereign authority only, while the head of the Cabinet, the civilian government and all the executive authority will be completely civilian,” TMC spokesperson Shamseddine Kabbashi told Al Arabiya television.
The opposition has demanded a rapid handover of power to civilians. The sit-in outside the Defense Ministry that began five days before Bashir’s removal has continued as protest leaders press for faster and deeper change.
The opposition and the TMC Wednesday evening agreed to form a committee to resolve their differences. Three TMC members resigned, the TMC said late Wednesday, but their resignations are yet to be accepted.
The members were Lt. Gen. Omar Zain al-Abideen, head of the political committee, Lt. Gen. Jalaleddine al-Sheikh and Lt. Gen. Al-Tayeb Babakr Ali Fadeel.
One of the SPA’s demands was that the three lieutenants general be dismissed and tried over their alleged role in a crackdown that killed dozens of protesters. The SPA described the meeting as a step toward “confidence-building.”
“Both sides agreed on the importance of joint cooperation to steer the country toward peace and stability,” the SPA said Thursday.
The SPA has insisted a civilian ruling council with representation for the military should take over.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside Egypt’s Embassy in Khartoum to demand President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi not interfere in Sudan, footage aired by Al Jazeera Mubasher showed. “Tell Sisi this is Sudan, your borders are just [until] Aswan,” they chanted.At a Cairo meeting led by Sisi Tuesday, African leaders agreed to give the TMC three months to implement democratic reforms, extending a 15-day deadline set by the African Union last week.
Sisi holds the rotating African Union presidency.
Protestors have flocked to Khartoum from across the country, including on a packed train Tuesday that rolled in from Atbara, where protests began on Dec. 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
Protester Hayam Kamal said she had returned from the Gulf to take part in the protest. “I have been living in Saudi Arabia all my life,” she told AFP.
“I returned to call for our freedom and better living conditions so that I can come back and live here.”
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