Main opposition group in Sudan rejects the general strike call

Sudan's top opposition leader and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi

Sudan's top opposition leader and former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, whose elected government was toppled in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup, speaks during an interview on May 1, 2019 at his residence in Omdourman. - Mahdi warned protest leaders against any provocation of the country's army rulers, saying they will soon hand power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators. "We shouldn't provoke the army council by trying to deprive them of their legitimacy, by depriving them of their positive role in the revolution," National Umma Party chief Sadiq al-Mahdi told AFP in an interview. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

Sudan’s main opposition group and supporter of the protest movement on Sunday rejected its call to stage a two-day general strike, in the first sign of a rift within the movement negotiating the launch of civilian rule. Talks between leaders of the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and army generals who seized power after ousting autocrat Omar al-Bashir last month are deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body — a civilian or soldier.

In a bid to step up pressure on the generals, the protest movement has called for a general strike starting Tuesday, but the National Umma Party, a key backer of the movement, rejected the measure. “We reject the general strike announced by some opposition groups” in the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the National Umma Party said in a statement.

“A general strike is a weapon that should be used after it is agreed upon by everybody,” Umma said. “We have to avoid such escalated measures that are not fully agreed.” The National Umma Party led by former premier Sadiq Al-Mahdi said any such decision should be taken by a council of leaders of the protest movement.

Such a council was still not in place and “will be composed in a meeting on Monday”, it said. It was Mahdi’s elected government that Bashir, who himself was deposed on April 11, toppled in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. In a recent interview, Mahdi warned protesters not to “provoke” the army’s rulers as they had been instrumental in ousting Bashir.

Talks still deadlocked

Minutes after Umma’s statement, another key member of the protest movement, the Sudanese Congress Party, said the strike will go ahead as planned. It said the strike was a new measure “to complete the mission of the revolution, which definitely will achieve its victory”.

The military toppled Bashir after months-long protests across Sudan led by the Alliance for Freedom and Change against his iron-fisted rule of three decades. But the generals who seized power have resisted calls from protesters and the international community for civilian rule.

Thousands of demonstrators remain camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum demanding that the generals step down. Talks between the generals and protest leaders remain deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body to oversee the formation of a civilian administration – a soldier or civilian.

Protest leaders insist a civilian must head a new sovereign council and that civilians should make up the majority of its members, proposals rejected by the ruling generals. The new ruling body when finalised is expected to install a transitional civilian government for three years after which the first post-Bashir election would be held.

Before suspending talks last Monday, the two sides had agreed on several key issues, including the three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers coming from the protesters’ umbrella group.


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