The African Union has warned Sudan’s military that the country has 15 days to install a civilian government or risk getting kicked out of the bloc, as a sit-in demanding the army hand over power entered its 11th day on Tuesday.
Sudan must aim to hold “free, fair and transparent elections” as soon as possible, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said it in a statement on Monday.
“A military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan,” it added.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday became the first foreign leader to meet with members of Sudan’s ruling military council and pledged his support for the neighbouring country.
“The Transitional Military Council has met many demands of the protesters, but some of the demands of the protesters need time to answer,” said General Jalal Eldin Alshaik, a member of the council, after the meeting.
He also vowed that the sit-in would not be dispersed from outside the army’s headquarters and appeared to change the council’s position on former president Omar al-Bashir’s extradition to The Hague.
“The decision whether to extradite al-Bashir to the [International Criminal Court] will be made by a popularly elected government and not the transitional military council,” he said at a press conference in Addis Ababa.
The council had previously said al-Bashir – who was arrested after Thursday’s military coup – would not be extradited to face charges of war crimes in Darfur.
Fearing that the core of the old establishment is far from gone, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) on Monday reiterated its call for the military council to be dissolved and substituted with a civilian one that would only include “limited” army representation.
The umbrella organisation, which spearheaded the months of protests that precipitated al-Bashir’s removal, also demanded the sacking of Sudan’s prosecutor general and judiciary head, as well as the disbanding of the former president’s National Congress Party (NCP).
“The objectives of the revolution cannot be achieved totally and completely in the face of the backstage manipulations by the remnants of the regime,” SPA member Taha Osman told reporters in the capital, Khartoum.
“The key demand is the formation of a civil council to guarantee that the revolution is safeguarded and all the goals are achieved.”
On April 11, after nearly four months of the popular uprising, a military takeover ended al-Bashir’s 30-year authoritarian rule. In a televised address to the nation, Sudan’s then-Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, announced that al-Bashir – who had seized power himself in a 1989 coup – had been arrested and taken to a “safe” location.
But the protesters’ elation quickly turned to anger as Ibn Auf, a long-time al-Bashir loyalist, announced the establishment of a two-year transitional military council and later was sworn in as its head.
Defying a newly imposed curfew, the demonstrators continued taking to the streets, denouncing Ibn Auf’s statement as a “farce”. Barely 24 hours later, the military council was forced to appoint its second leader in two days, with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan replacing Ibn Auf.
Since then, negotiations have taken place between the council and protest organisers, who on Saturday submitted a list of demands to Sudan’s military rulers.
The military council is yet to formally respond to those demands, which include the transfer of power to a civilian-headed transitional authority for a period of four years, at the end of which elections will be held.
It has, however, made a number of moves in an apparent bid to appease the protesters, including the lifting of the night-time curfew.
Al-Burhan has also vowed to restructure state institutions and “uproot the [Bashir] regime and its symbols” – but has also said that the transition to civilian rule could take up to two years.
Separately, al-Bashir’s National Congress Party issued a statement criticising its treatment in recent days.
“[The coup] has encouraged some political forces to call for political exclusion and to launch a hatred campaign towards the National Congress Party – calling for its dissolution and confiscating its property, and we will deal with that according to the legal procedures,” the party said.