Sudan’s military rulers have arrested two brothers of deposed President Omar al-Bashir, as hundreds of people marched in the capital, Khartoum, calling for a swift handover of power to civilian leadership.
Shams al-Din Kabashi, spokesman for the transitional military council, said on Wednesday that Abdullah and Abbas Hassan al-Bashir were taken into custody as part of a continuing campaign of arrests against “symbols and leaders of the previous regime”.
The announcement came as sources said Sudanese authorities have transferred al-Bashir from “house-arrest” to the Kobar prison in northern Khartoum.
A former Sudanese minister told The Associated Press news agency that al-Bashir, who was overthrown by the military following months of protests against his nearly 30-year rule, was moved to the maximum security prison late on Tuesday. A guard at the Kobar prison confirmed the move to Al Jazeera, saying: “I saw President Omar al-Bashir being brought in [by] dozens of army officers.”
There was no official comment on the deposed leader’s whereabouts.
The military has said it would not extradite the deposed leader to the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes and genocide in the region of Darfur, but would instead put him on trial at home.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people joined a march by doctors and health workers towards a days-long sit-in outside the army headquarters, which has become the epicentre of Sudan‘s popular uprising.
Many wore white coats, waved Sudanese flags and chanted: “Freedom, peace, justice and the revolution is the people’s choice”. Journalists also held a separate rally in Khartoum calling for press freedom.
‘Our revolution could be stolen’
Aya Abdel Aziz, a 22-year-old medical student, said she decided to join the march, which started from the University of Khartoum, to press for women’s rights as well as the handover of power to the people.
“Our demand is that women have representation in the transitional civilian council,” she told the AP news agency.
Khalid Mohamed, a medic, told the AFP news agency: “We got Bashir out, but we still have to get rid of the regime”.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which has spearheaded the protests, called on the military council to immediately hand over power to a transitional civilian government that would rule for four years. The group fears that the army, dominated by al-Bashir appointees, will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed him.
At the sit-in, Fadia Khalaf, a protester, told the AFP she would stay at the area “until our demands are met”.
“We faced tear gas, many of us were jailed. We have been shot and many have died. All this because we said what we wanted to … Now, we fear that our revolution could be stolen, which is why we are keeping our ground here. We are staying here until our demands are met.”
The military council has made some concessions to protesters, including the removal of the country’s three-highest ranking public prosecutors, and the appointment of a new intelligence chief. It has also invited protest organisers and political parties to decide on a civilian prime minister, but said it would hold on to the interior and defence ministries.
The political parties and movements behind the protests on Wednesday handed in a plan for the formation of a joint transitional council, according to Taha Osman, a member of SPA.
Western powers have backed the protesters’ demands for a civilian administration, while the African Union called for the military to transfer power to a civilian-led body within 15 days or risk Sudan being suspended from the regional bloc.
Tim Murthi at South Africa’s Institute for Justice and Reconciliation said the AU’s ultimatum would increase pressure on the military, which he said did not appear to have a “clear strategy” for the transition.
“They are currently grappling with options,” he said from Cape Town, describing al-Bashir’s reported transfer to prison as “a delaying tactic”.
“There is an internal battle going on to determine his fate and his future. And one doesn’t know quite which faction has an upper hand,” he said, adding: “The African Union has a policy of noncooperation with the ICC. So that is not a concern for the council.”
Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda’s deputy foreign minister, said his government “can consider” giving al-Bashir asylum if he wants it.
Ceasefire in Blue Nile, South Kordofan
Also on Wednesday, Sudanese armed groups fighting government forces declared a unilateral, three-month ceasefire in areas under their control in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
Abdelal-Aziz Adam al-Hilu, head of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), said the ceasefire was a “gesture of goodwill”, aimed at giving the military a “chance for a peaceful and quick transfer of power to civilians”.
Fighting in the Blue Nile state has been raging for years between al-Bashir’s government forces and the armed groups, who were left on the northern side of the border after South Sudan’s independence.
Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, which seceded from Khartoum in 2011, offered on Wednesday to “mediate the ongoing negotiations among the various groups in Sudan with the hope the new transition will usher in a new day”.
At the United Nations, Jeremiah Mamabolo, the joint UN-AU envoy in Darfur, said al-Bashir’s overthrow has sparked violence in the vast western region of the country, between people displaced during its long conflict and other protesters.
The violence included arson attacks on the premises of al-Bashir’s security service and his party’s offices, as well as houses of community leaders “perceived to have collaborated with the previous regime”, Mamabolo said on Wednesday.
There was also violence in the Kalma camp, housing thousands of people who fled the fighting in Darfur and clashes between youth groups on Saturday led to the reported death of 15 displaced people, he said.
Mohammed Amin contributed to this report from Khartoum