Sudan's military says talks to resume as barricades removed

Generals say negotiations with protest leaders will resume on Sunday following 72-hour suspension over Khartoum unrest.

    Sudanese protesters carry their national flag as they chant slogans in front of the Defence Ministry compound in Khartoum [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/ Reuters]
    Sudanese protesters carry their national flag as they chant slogans in front of the Defence Ministry compound in Khartoum [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/ Reuters]

    Sudan's military council has announced plans to resume talks with protest leaders, paving the way for the two sides to iron out differences over an interim body to steer the country towards democratic elections.

    In a statement on Saturday, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said negotiations with the Alliance for Freedom and Change will resume on Sunday.

    The two sides have been divided over the composition of a transitional authority that will rule the country following the military's toppling of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in the face of mass protests on April 11.

    Both want majority representation on the sovereign council, which would operate as the top tier of power during the planned transition period.

    They had been expected to meet for negotiations over the issue by the end of this week, but the TMC suspended talks with the alliance for 72 hours early on Thursday. It cited a deteriorating security situation in the capital, Khartoum, where demonstrators had erected roadblocks on several key avenues.

    At least four people were killed and more than a dozen wounded earlier this week when security forces moved to dismantle the barricades. The UN's independent expert on human rights in Sudan has called for an investigation into the deaths. 

    On Friday, representatives from the United States, the United Nations, African Union and European powers called for "an agreement ASAP on an interim government that is truly civilian-led and reflects the will of the Sudanese people", according to a Twitter post by Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa.

    Before calling off talks this week the two sides agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of legislators to come from the protesters' umbrella group.

    Islamists protest

    Since the suspension, protesters have taken down roadblocks that had paralysed parts of the capital, meeting a key demand from the military council head, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

    "We have removed the bricks ... but if they do not respond to our demands then we will bring the bricks again," protester Sumeya Abdrahman told the AFP news agency on Friday.

    The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters, where thousands remain camped out to demand a rapid transition to democracy.

    Separately on Saturday, Islamist movements in Sudan held their own demonstration outside the presidential palace in downtown Khartoum. The groups fear the incipient transition plans exclude them. 

    Supporters of Sudanese Islamist movements shout slogans as they rally in front of the Presidential Palace in downtown Khartoum [Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP]

    Hundreds of protesters took part in the rally, according to AFP, the first by Islamist groups since al-Bashir's removal by the military on April 11.

    "The main reason for the mobilisation is that the alliance is ignoring the application of sharia [Islamic law] in its deal," said Al-Tayeb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups.

    "This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan," he told AFP before the rally.

    Sudanese legislation has been underpinned by Islamic law since al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 military coup.

    But the protest movement has so far remained silent on whether Islamic law has a place in Sudan's future, arguing that its main concern was installing a civilian administration.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies