Sudan’s military council promises civilian government after Bashir toppled
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s ruling military council on Friday promised a new civilian government, a day after the armed forces overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, but mistrustful protest leaders immediately rejected the gesture.
The council, which is now running Sudan under Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, said it expected a pre-election transition to last two years at most or much less if chaos can be avoided.
The head of the military council’s political committee, Omar Zain al-Abideen, also said the council would hold a dialogue with political entities.
However, later on Friday, the council said the meeting would be delayed until a later unspecified date, state news agency SUNA reported.
The council also announced that it would not extradite Bashir to face accusations of genocide at the international war crimes court. Instead he might go on trial in Sudan.
Friday’s announcement of a future civilian government by the head of the military council’s political committee, General Omar Zain al-Abideen, appeared aimed at reassuring wary demonstrators who went back into the streets to warn against imposing army rule after Bashir’s ouster.
But the main protest group dismissed the pledge, saying the military council was “not capable of creating change”. In a statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) restated its demand for power to be handed immediately to “a transitional civilian government”.
Bashir, 75, himself seized power in a 1989 military coup. He had faced 16 weeks of demonstrations sparked by rising food costs, high unemployment and increasing repression during his three decades of autocratic rule.
Worshippers packed the streets around the Defence Ministry for Friday prayers, heeding a call by the SPA to challenge the military council.
The numbers swelled in the afternoon and a Reuters witness estimated hundreds of thousands of protesters thronged areas around the ministry, which was guarded by soldiers.
“We do not reject a military council in principle, but we reject these people because they are from Bashir’s regime,” said Abdelhamid Ahmed, a 24-year-old doctor.
Sudan’s Deputy UN Ambassador Yasir Abdalla Abdelsalam Ahmed told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that any democratic process in the country required time and called on the international community to support a peaceful transition.
“No party will be excluded from the political process, including armed groups,” he told the council during a meeting on Abyei, a contested border region claimed by Sudan and South Sudan. The 15-member council convened later on Friday behind closed doors to be briefed on the latest developments in Sudan.
“Moreover, the suspension of the constitution could be lifted at any point and the transitional period could be shortened depending on developments on the ground and agreements reached between stakeholders,” the Sudanese envoy said.
Zain al-Abideen said the military council would not interfere with a civilian government. However he said the defence and interior ministries would be under its control.
The military council is headed by Ibn Auf, who was Bashir’s vice president and defence minister and is among a handful of Sudanese commanders sanctioned by Washington for his alleged role during the atrocities committed in the Darfur conflict.