Sudan protesters defiant as army warns ‘no more chaos’
Tensions rise in Sudan amid disagreements between protesters and military rulers over makeup of transitional council.
Sudanese protest leaders have called for a mass rally amid mounting tensions over the composition of a joint civilian-military council to run the country following the removal of Sudan‘s longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir.
In a statement on Tuesday, the political parties and movements behind the months-long anti-government protests urged supporters to gather for a “million-strong march” on May 2 to keep up the pressure for civilian rule.
The appeal came hours after Sudan’s military rulers warned against “chaos” and called on protesters to clear roads and railways, saying seven provinces were running low on essential supplies.
Mohamed Naji al-Assam, spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main protest group, said the ruling military council was “not serious” about transferring power to civilians.
“With the passing of time the powers of the military council are expanded and this is a very big danger for the Sudanese revolution,” he said.
Protesters want the council, which took power after toppling al-Bashir on April 11, to cede power to a 15-member body made up of eight civilian representatives and seven military figures.
But the council has rejected that, and instead proposed a 10-member council comprised of seven military representatives and three civilians.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the military council, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the council wanted to continue negotiations with the protest organisers.
“We are ready to negotiate but no chaos after today,” said Dagalo, who is also known as Hemeti.
‘Ready to die’
He said the military would not try to disperse a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, which began six days before al-Bashir’s removal, but warned citizens against taking the law into their own hands.
“We do not care about the sit-in but there are bridges and railways that are paralysed, there are seven provinces that need food, water and fuel,” he said, adding that six security force personnel and 16 others had been wounded in clashes with protesters across the country on Monday.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Khartoum, said Dagalo’s statements suggested a shift in the military’s position.
“The military is not ceding anything at the moment, and they seem to have changed tack; before they were giving in to every demand coming from the protest leaders including even a purge within the military council of people considered to be close to al-Bashir.”
Protesters at the sit-in were “getting more and more apprehensive,” he said. “The feeling is the military are trying to take over the revolution that they started.”
At the military headquarters, Mohammed Adam, one of the protesters, accused the military leadership of trying to preserve al-Bashir’s regime.
“Our message is clear: all these people won’t go back for any reason,” he said. “We are ready to die, because this is a message to the previous regime. We want to build a new country.”
Another protester, Muhanad Ali Jumaa, said the sit-ins must continue if the revolution is to succeed.
“For a revolution, if you don’t block the roads then we won’t be putting pressure on these people,” he said.
While the SPA has warned of military attempts to disperse the sit-in outside the army headquarters and called on protesters to rebuild barricades, Lieutenant General Salah Abdelkhalik, another member of the ruling military council, told reporters security forces “will never use violence against protesters”.
He also distanced the council from the former government of al-Bashir, saying: “We are part of the revolution and not part of the former regime as people view us.”
Jon Temin, Africa director at Freedom House, a US-based advocacy group, said the resolution of the standoff between the protesters and the military depended on two factors.
“The first one is the street and the extent to which protesters can maintain their momentum and numbers. The second is external influences, particularly the countries that are talking to the military council, there’s a lot of engagement going on with the Gulf countries, with Egypt and Turkey [and] the content of those conversations are very important.” he said.
“And there’s a lot of questions as to whether other countries including the United States are going to engage more and try to shape outcomes more. So far, the US, in particular, has been more of a bystander,” Temin added.