WED 21 - 8 - 2019
May 3, 2019
The Daily Star
Sudanese hold mass protest, step up pressure on generals
KHARTOUM: Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese protesters took part in a “million-strong” march Thursday to step up pressure on the military to hand power to civilians following last month’s overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.
The mass protest came as the public prosecutor ordered Bashir to be interrogated on charges of money laundering and financing terrorism.
The prosecutor’s statement said other unidentified senior figures would also be investigated for financial crimes.
Demonstrators gathered at meeting points across the capital Khartoum and joined the main sit-in outside the Defense Ministry, waving Sudanese flags and chanting slogans against the Transitional Military Council.
“Dirty Burhan, who brought him? It is the Islamists,” the protesters chanted, referring to Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council.
Burhan is not an Islamist, but Islamists played a major role in the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power and populate the upper echelons of the security forces.
“The military council is dragging its feet on giving us a civilian government. We want to have a civilian government. We do not want any procrastination,” said Abu Bakr al-Mudasir, who had traveled from an area south of the capital to attend the rally.
The military council has warned it will not allow “chaos” and urged protesters to dismantle makeshift barricades they have set up around the location.
In an interview with AFP Wednesday, Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s former prime minister and main political opponent of Bashir, warned protest leaders against provoking the military. “If we provoke the ... armed forces which contributed to the change, we would be asking for trouble,” said Mahdi, whose National Umma Party is part of the protest movement.
The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, had called for a million-person march as talks with the military council reached a deadlock over the role of the generals in the transitional period.
“Today’s rally is a message to the military council as well as regional and international players that the Sudanese people will not give up on their demand for a civilian government,” said Ahmad Rabie, a leader in the SPA, which led the four months of protests that drove Bashir from power.
Rabie, a member of the protesters’ delegation to the talks, said they proposed an 11-member sovereign council with three seats set aside for the military.
He said the military countered with a proposal for a 10-member council with just three civilians. In their latest bid to narrow the gap, the two sides agreed on a committee of public figures to mediate the talks.
“The members of this committee are all patriotic public figures and we have no reservation over any of them,” Rabie said. “However, they are not authorized to sign off on any deal on our behalf.”
The military forced Bashir from office on April 11 and has since jailed him and other former senior officials. But the protesters fear the generals intend to hold onto power or cut a deal with other factions that would leave much of Bashir’s regime intact.
Earlier this week, the military demanded that protesters clear roadblocks around their main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, which was set up days before Bashir’s overthrow. The protesters responded by building more barricades. “This is a sit-in and there cannot be any real sit-in if roads are cleared,” Rabie said.
The protest organizers face a challenge with the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for at least 14 hours under unrelenting heat, set to start in the coming days.
The organizers say they will provide air-conditioned tents and other provisions.
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