Sudan’s coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has said the army will withdraw from ongoing political talks and allow political and revolutionary groups to form a civilian transitional government.
The general’s statements on Monday follow after a deadly week for Sudan’s pro-democracy movement as large-scale protests demanding an end to military rule have continued in the Khartoum area since Thursday.
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Protest groups remain sceptical that the military will truly step aside, with protesters continuing to take to the streets in Khartoum after al-Burhan’s announcement, calling for the military’s immediate departure from power. A civilian-led transitional government that followed the overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 was itself removed by a military coup in October.
Nine people have been killed and at least 629 injured by a recent security forces crackdown on the demonstrations, according to the Sudan’s Doctors Committee, which has tracked protest casualties.
“The armed forces will not stand in the way” of democratic transition, al-Burhan said in a televised address, affirming the military’s commitment to working towards “elections in which the Sudanese people choose who will govern them”.
The ruling sovereign council, led by al-Burhan and consisting of military and civilian members, will be dissolved after the formation of the new government, he said.
However, pro-democracy groups fear that could potentially take a long time, allowing the military to remain in power.
Al-Burhan said that a new Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would be created after the formation of the government and it will be responsible for security and defence tasks and “related responsibilities” in agreement with the government, the military leader said.
The army’s withdrawal from political talks was aimed at allowing the political and revolutionary groups to form the technocrat government, he said.
Al-Burhan called on the groups to start “an immediate and serious dialogue … that brings everyone back to the path of democratic transition”. The military will be committed to implementing the outcomes of the dialogue, he said, though he did not clarify how much of a political role the armed forces will have in the future.
‘Very clear about their demands’
Since the military seized power in October, authorities have met the near-weekly street protests with deadly repression, which has so far killed 113 people, including 18 children, according to monitors.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the Sudanese capital Khartoum, said the protesters have been “very clear about their demands” which is they “don’t want the military to remain in power”.
General al-Burhan’s statement is unlikely to appease those demonstrating against the military, Morgan said.
“With the statement from the head of the army, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, it’s clear the army will remain in charge until political parties reach some sort of consensus to form a transitional government and set a deadline for elections,” Morgan said.
“That doesn’t go down well with the protesters. They’ve been demanding, for seven months now, that they want to see the military removed before they see any form of negotiations happening between political parties to form a transitional government led by civilians,” she said.
“When it comes to the political parties, they’ve been having issues reaching that consensus,” Morgan added.
“And let’s not forget that on the day of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said it was political differences between the parties that led the army to take over power and dissolve the transitional government that was meant to lead Sudan to democracy.”
Since the coup that brought al-Burhan to power, the UN political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the eight-nation, East African regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development group have been trying to broker a way out of the political impasse. But talks have yielded no results so far.
Pro-democracy groups have repeatedly said they will not negotiate with the military, and have called for them to immediately hand the reins to a civilian government.
Protesters were unmoved by the general’s words, and in the Burri district of Khartoum new demonstrators came out immediately after al-Burhan’s televised address.
“We don’t have confidence in Burhan,” said Muhannad Othman, perched on a barricade erected by the protesters. “We just want him to leave once and for all.”
A demonstrator in central Khartoum, Oumeima Hussein, said al-Burhan should be “judged for all those killed since the coup” and vowed that protesters “are going to topple him like we did to Bashir”.
Sudan has been plunged into turmoil since the military takeover upended its short-lived transition to democracy after 30 years of rule by al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir and the government were removed by the military after a popular uprising in April 2019.