Protesters in Sudan demand civilian head of new governing body

The Sudanese protesters have demanded that the governing body to be installed should be run by a civilian.
Sudanese protesters wave the national flag
Sudanese protesters wave the national flag outside the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on May 19, 2019

Sudan protest leaders said Sunday they will insist civilian runs a planned new governing body in new talks with army rulers, as Islamists warned against excluding sharia from the political roadmap. The Alliance for Freedom and Change is determined that the country’s new ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation”, it said in a statement.

The Sudan protesters’ umbrella group said talks would resume with the military council — which has ruled Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir was deposed on April 11 — at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Sunday. Talks over a transfer of power by the generals have repeatedly stalled, resulting in international pressure to return to the table after the military rulers suspended negotiations earlier this week.

The generals insist the new body be military-led but the protest leaders demand a majority civilian body. On Sunday, the protest movement raised the ante by insisting that the ruling body should be headed by a civilian.

Sudanese protesters gather outside the army headquarters
Sudanese protesters gather outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on May 19, 2019

The existing military council is headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. “The ministry of finance has deposited 937.5 million Saudi Riyals into the central bank of Sudan,” it said in a statement.

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Aid package

In April, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced three billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) in financial aid for Sudan. The UAE said on April 28 it was depositing $250 million in Sudan’s central bank.

The oil-rich Gulf states pledged to inject $500 million into Sudan’s central bank and $2.5 billion to help provide food, medicine and petroleum products, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said last month.

It was Sudan’s worsening economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests against Bashir. Before talks were suspended between the generals and protest leaders they had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The previous round of talks was marred by violence after five protesters and an army major were shot dead near the ongoing sit-in outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum, where thousands have camped out for weeks.

Initially, the protesters gathered to demand Bashir resign – but they have stayed put, to pressure the generals into stepping aside. The protesters had also erected roadblocks on some avenues in Khartoum to put further pressure on the generals during negotiations, but the military rulers suspended the last round of talks and demanded the barriers be removed.

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Protesters duly took the roadblocks down in recent days – but they said they will put them back up if the army fails to transfer power to a civilian administration. The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside army headquarters.

Islamists’ warning

Islamic movements rallied outside the presidential palace on Saturday night, to reject any civilian administration that excludes sharia as its guiding principle. Hundreds took part in the rally, the first organised by Islamist groups since Bashir’s ouster.

“The main reason for the mobilisation is that the Alliance (the main Sudan protesters’ umbrella group) is ignoring the application of sharia in its deal,” said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups. “This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan,”.

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Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law. At Saturday’s rally, hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli had a warning for the military council.

“If you consider handing over power to a certain faction, then we will consider it a coup”, he vowed as supporters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

The Sudan protest leaders have so far remained silent on whether sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.

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