Khartoum: Sudan’s military leader Abdul Fattah Al Burhan on Wednesday dismissed the last civilian members of his ruling body as part of a power shift he has proposed, but protesters who have rejected his pledge again took to the streets.
“The blood of the martyrs did not flow in vain,” hundreds of women protesters chanted in Khartoum about pro-democracy activists who have been killed in street violence, also demanding a return of “the soldiers to the barracks”.
Al Burhan in a surprise move Monday vowed to “make room” for civilian groups to form a new transitional government.
He also said that the ruling Sovereign Council he chairs would be disbanded and, in an apparent move to carry out the process, issued a decree relieving five little-known civilian members of their posts.
Several of them told local press that they had received no formal notification and were surprised to discover that their official vehicles had been taken away.
Protesters have demanded a restoration of the transition to civilian rule despite repeated crackdowns by the security forces, who have in recent days fired live bullets, launched barrages of tear gas canisters and deployed water cannons, according to medics.
Al Burhan’s pledge Monday to step aside for a new civilian “government” was accompanied by another pledge - the establishment of a new “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”.
This body would be in charge of defence and security, he said, feeding into concerns among opponents that it would not be answerable to any government.
Al Burhan said the new body would combine the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a powerful unit commanded by his deputy, Mohamad Hamdan Daglo.
On Tuesday, following an IGAD emergency summit chaired by Al Burhan in Kenya, the bloc praised efforts to finding “lasting solutions to the political situation”, adding that it “appreciated the positive steps” taken by Sudan’s leaders.
Too early to tell
Sudan has been rocked by near-weekly protests since the October, with thousands marching in multiple cities.
Pro-democracy medics said nine demonstrators lost their lives last Thursday, the deadliest violence so far this year, which brought to 114 the number killed in the crackdown since October.
Al Burhan’s announcement has been treated cautiously by international players, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres saying he hoped it would create “the opportunity ...to reach an agreement that ultimately leads to a civilian-led transition to democracy”.
The United States said it was “too early to tell” the impact, with State Department spokesman Ned Price urging all sides to seek a solution towards “a civilian-led government” with “free and fair elections”.
Protesters argue that the army chief has made such moves before.
In November, a month after the coup, Burhan signed a deal with Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister he had ousted in the power grab and put under house arrest, returning him to power.
But many people rejected that pact and took to the streets again, and Hamdok resigned in January warning that Sudan was “crossing a dangerous turning point that threatens its whole survival”.