Sudanese demonstrators make victory signs as they protest in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan. Image Credit: Reuters

Khartoum: Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir has been ousted after three decades in power following months of mass protests. The military has announced a transitional period of up to two years followed by elections, but demonstrators are pushing for a quick handover of power to civilians.

Who is in control now?

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan replaced defence minister and vice-president Awad Ibn Ouf as head of the military council. Al Burhan was the third most senior general in the Sudanese military and is little known publicly. As chief of Sudan’s ground forces he oversaw Sudanese troops fighting in the Saudi-led Yemen war and has close ties to senior Gulf military officials.

The UAE, a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, was quick to welcome Al Burhan’s appointment and said it would look to accelerate aid to Sudan.

Shortly after Al Burhan’s nomination, Saudi Arabia said it would provide wheat, fuel and medicine to Sudan.

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans and wave Sudanese flags as they protest in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas Image Credit: REUTERS

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi spoke by telephone to Al Burhan, the presidential palace said in a statement, offering Egyptian support for Sudan’s stability.

Sudan’s TMC also reported that a joint UAE-Saudi delegation visited Khartoum and met with Buhan and Hemedti conveying a message of the two countries’ willingness to extend support for Sudan “important and historic stage.”

The UAE and Saudi, which supported the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi in Egypt and have worked to counter Islamists linked to the Brotherhood across the region, are following the same goal in Sudan, said the Sudanese source.

“They want to use economic aid to encourage some power centres in Sudan to weaken the presence of Islamists and their full control over economic institutions.”

The influence of their regional rivals Qatar and Turkey, which both had ties to Al Bashir, will be limited, said the Sudanese military officer.

“It was a tug of war, and right now UAE and Saudi won,” he said.

How much could the military concede?

Al Burhan has promised a civilian government after consultations with the opposition, and announced an easing of emergency measures and the release of political detainees.

But there has been little word from the military on protesters’ demands for a civilian presence in the ruling council, and for members of Al Bashir’s entourage some of whom face international sanctions and charges to be held to account.

On Wednesday, Sudan’s new military rulers arrested Al Bashir’s two brothers for corruption, part of a broad sweep against officials and supporters of the former government.

Sudanese demonstrators make victory signs as they protest in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas Image Credit: REUTERS

The announcement was made just hours after the military said it had transferred Al Bashir to Koper Prison in the capital.

The military has also arrested a number of Al Bashir’s close associates and former government officials.

It’s not clear what will happen next to Al Bashir, a pariah in any countries. The military has said it would not extradite him to the ICC but has not ruled out that a future civilian government could someday hand him over to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Have the protesters demands been met?

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been spearheading the anti-government street protests since mid-December, released Wednesday together with several opposition groups a proposed blueprint for the transfer of power from the military to a civilian government.

Though the street protesters were overjoyed at Al Bashir’s ouster, they were not happy with the military taking over and have demanded a swift handover of power to civilian rule.

The military council has said it plans to rule for a maximum of two years as they country prepares for new elections.

The protesters fear the army, dominated by Al Bashir appointees, will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed him.

They have vowed to carry on with their protests, focused around a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, until the transfer of power is complete.

The two-page blueprint posted online envisages a civilian presidential council made up of “revolutionary figures” and a defense minister, the only representative from the military.

It also proposes the formation of a Cabinet of technocrats to run daily affairs of the state and a legislative council to draft laws and oversee the Cabinet until a new constitution is written.

“We have to continue our sit-ins until a transitional civilian authority takes over,” the document says.

“We have faith that our people’s victory is coming and that no power can stop our people from achieving all their goals.”

How did Al Bashir fall?

Al Bashir, 75, was one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa and the Arab world. He took power in a coup in 1989 and had survived isolation from the West, civil wars, the split between Sudan and South Sudan, indictment by the International Criminal Court, and several previous bouts of protest.

A Sudanese man offers juice to demonstrators as they protest in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas Image Credit: REUTERS

But in December, a worsening economic crisis triggered protests that quickly spread across the country of 40 million, calling for Al Bashir to go.

The protests continued for 16 weeks despite a security crackdown in which dozens died and thousands were detained.

On April 6, protesters stepped up the pressure with a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Riot police and intelligence services tried to clear the area, but the army shielded them before announcing Al Bashir’s overthrow on April 11.

Despite Al Bashir’s close ties to the military’s top leadership, mid- and lower-ranking officers more connected to society sympathised with the protesters’ demands, said Hamid Eltigani, a Sudanese professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo.

As pressure from the street mounted, factions within the security establishment distanced themselves from Al Bashir as they sought to protect their positions, he said.

One Sudanese military officer said a deal was struck within the military leadership.

“The faces had to be changed, and they all decided to change them without any bloodshed.”

What happened next?

The appointment of Ibn Ouf as head of the Transitional Military Council fuelled widespread anger among protesters because of his close association with Al Bashir.

He survived just 24 hours, stepping down late on April 12.

Salah Abdullah Mohammad Saleh, better known as Salah Gosh, resigned as the head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) the following day.

Long considered the second most powerful man in the country after Al Bashir, Salah Gosh was another key target for the protesters.