Sudan‘s military rulers have invited organisers of anti-government demonstrations to hold new talks on handing over power to a civilian administration, the protest movement said, after weeks of deadlock over the make-up of an interim governing body.
The invitation on Saturday came days after Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), an umbrella group comprising several opposition parties and civil society groups, threatened to up the ante and launch a civil disobedience movement.
Talks on the protesters’ key demand for a civilian-led authority to oversee the country’s transition remain at a stalemate, a month after the military removed President Omar al-Bashir in the face of mass protests.
The DFCF wants a transitional body led by civilians to steer a four-year transition, while the ruling military council has indicated that it wants to retain overall control of any joint military and civilian sovereign body.
In a statement on Saturday, the group said it received a call from the military council to resume negotiations.
“We have identified the points of contention with the military and … decisive talks will revolve around them in each meeting,” it said, adding: “We want to hold the talks quickly and sort out all these points in 72 hours.”
Last month, the protest movement handed plans to the military for an interim government structure, which outlined the duties of a transitional council, a cabinet and a 120-member legislature.
The military council said it generally agreed with the proposal, but said it wants Islamic laws and local norms to guide the country’s new legal framework.
‘We will stay here forever’
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters remain encamped outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, vowing to force the generals to cede power just as they forced al-Bashir from office.
Demonstrators began gathering at the army complex on April 6, seeking the military’s help in ending al-Bashir’s 30-year rule. The military toppled the president in a palace coup on April 11, but replaced him with a council formed entirely of generals, prompting protesters to accuse it of trying to hijack their “revolution”.
“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 through the daytime fasts observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.
The generals have offered several concessions to placate the protesters, including holding al-Bashir in Khartoum’s Kobar prison, arresting several of his lieutenants and promising to prosecute officers who killed protesters during the demonstrations against the former president’s government.
But they have dragged their heels on the demand for a civilian-led transition.
“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.”
On Wednesday, US Deputy Secretary of State John J Sullivan spoke with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the military council, by telephone and backed “the Sudanese people’s aspirations for a free, democratic and prosperous future”.
The US Department of State said Sullivan encouraged Burhan to reach an agreement with the protest movement and “move expeditiously toward a civilian-led interim government”.