11, May 2019
One month after ousting veteran president Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s military rulers show no sign of handing power to a civilian administration and talks with protest leaders remain deadlocked.
Thousands of protesters remain encamped outside army headquarters in central Khartoum, vowing to force the generals to cede power just as they forced Bashir from office.
“We want civilian rule or we will stay here forever,” said protester Iman Hussein, a regular at the sit-in which protesters have kept up since April 6.
Protesters initially gathered at the army complex to seek the generals’ help in ending Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule.
On April 11, the army toppled Bashir in a palace coup replacing him with a military council formed entirely of generals that has shattered protesters’ dreams of a civilian-led transition to democracy.
The deepening economic crisis that fuelled the four months of nationwide protests which led to Bashir’s ouster shows no sign of abating.
Huge queues form daily at ATM machines as the freezing up of the banking system forces consumers to use cash to buy basic goods made ever more expensive by the sliding value of the Sudanese pound.
The generals insist they will not use force to disperse the sit-in which protesters have kept up through the daytime fasts observed by Muslim during the holy month of Ramadan.
The generals have offered several concessions to placate the protesters, including detaining Bashir in Khartoum’s Kober prison, arresting several of his lieutenants and promising to prosecute officers who killed protesters during the demonstrations against the old regime.
– Winner ‘will be us’ –
But when it comes to the protesters’ key demand for a civilian authority to oversee a four-year transition, the military has simply dragged its heels.
“They are pressuring us with time, but we are pressuring them with our presence here,” said protester Hussein.
“One of us has to win in the end, and it will be us.”
Last month, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which brings together the protest movement and opposition and rebel groups, handed the generals its proposals for a civilian-led transition.
But the generals have expressed “many reservations” over the alliance’s roadmap,
They have singled out its silence on the constitutional position of Islamic sharia law which was the guiding principle of all legislation under Bashir’s rule but is anathema to secular groups like the Sudanese Communist Party and some rebel factions.
The protest movement says the military appears intent on hijacking the revolution and determining its outcome.
Protest leader Khalid Omar Yousef told reporters on Wednesday that the movement was now considering “escalatory measures” like launching a nationwide civil disobedience movement to achieve its demand.
– US pressure –
The generals are under pressure too, with the United States and the African Union calling on them to ensure a smooth transition of power.
In a telephone call with military council chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, backed “the Sudanese people’s aspirations for a free, democratic and prosperous future”.
The State Department said Sullivan encouraged Burhan to reach agreement with the Alliance for Freedom and Change and “move expeditiously toward a civilian-led interim government”.
But the generals have strong support from oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have extended a $3 billion credit line to shore up the Sudanese pound and fund imports of basic goods.
Some members of the protest movement are optimistic however that the generals will ultimately cede power.
“They will hand over executive power to a civilian government if we present a credible, viable form of a civilian government,” opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, the prime minister Bashir overthrew in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, told AFP earlier this month.
“Because they know if ultimately they settle for a military dictatorship, they will be in the same position as Bashir.”