Wed | May 22, 2019

Tensions escalate after talks with military break down

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2019 | 12:15 AM
Sudanese protesters use their smartphones’ lights during a protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Sunday, April 21, 2019.
Sudanese protesters use their smartphones’ lights during a protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Sunday, April 21, 2019.

KHARTOUM (AP):

Tensions escalated in Sudan yesterday after talks broke down between protesters and the country’s military rulers, who called for the reopening of roads blocked by sit-ins established during the uprising that drove President Omar al-Bashir from power.

The protesters, who have been rallying outside the military headquarters in Khartoum since April 6, have demanded a swift handover of power to civilians. A military council has ruled since al-Bashir was forced from office on April 11 after nearly four months of mass protests against his 30-year rule.

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the capital Monday. Videos showed hundreds of high-school students marching in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and shouting “Revolution!” Other footage showed thousands of protests outside a military complex in the province of Sennar, about 225 miles (360 km) east of Khartoum.

The military council issued a statement earlier in the day calling for the “immediate opening of the roads and removal of the barricades” around the sit-in in Khartoum. It asked that other roads, closed by similar protests across the country, also be opened.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has led the protests, vowed to carry on with their sit-in. The umbrella group of professional unions called for a march Tuesday and mass rallies on Thursday, when it plans to announce its own civilian transitional council in a challenge to the military.

Large crowds had gathered outside the military headquarters overnight, singing and dancing as protest leaders delivered fiery speeches. Qurashi Diefallah, a protester, said the army is “just an extension of the regime, which stole 30 years from us.”

The organisers on Sunday suspended talks with the military council, saying it had failed to meet their demands for an immediate transfer to a civilian government.

Spokesman Mohammed al-Amin Abdel Aziz said the military council “is delaying its response to our proposals, saying that they are considering proposals from all political forces,” he said.

This has raised fears among the protesters that Islamists and other factions close to al-Bashir, who is now jailed in Khartoum, will have a role in the transition. They fear that could leave much of his regime intact or pave the way for another strongman.