Sudan leaders face pressure for transfer to civilian rule as protesters reject attempts to clear camp

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Sudanese protesters rally in the area of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on April 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Sudanese demonstrators chant slogan in front of security forces during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan April 15, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019

Sudan leaders face pressure for transfer to civilian rule as protesters reject attempts to clear camp

  • Thousands remained camped outside the complex in Khartoum overnight after protest leaders
  • The organization that spearheaded the months of protests leading to Bashir’s fall

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military rulers faced pressure from demonstrators and Western governments to hand power to a new civilian government Monday as activists warned of an attempt to disperse a 10-day-old mass protest outside army headquarters.
Thousands remained camped outside the complex in Khartoum overnight after protest leaders issued demands to the military council set up following the ouster of veteran president Omar Al-Bashir.
The organization that spearheaded the months of protests leading to Bashir’s fall, the Sudanese Professionals Association, called on their supporters to boost the numbers at the complex.
“There is an attempt to disperse the sit-in from the army headquarters area, they are trying to remove the barricades,” the SPA said in a statement, without saying who was responsible.
“We call on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area to protect our revolution.”
Witnesses said several army vehicles had surrounded the area and that troops were seen removing the barricades which demonstrators had put up as a security measure.
Britain’s ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, met the new military council’s deputy and stated his “top request was no violence and no attempt to forcibly break the sit in.”
In the meeting with Mohammad Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Himeidti, Siddik wrote on Twitter that he also backed the SPA’s call for a civilian administration.
The talks came a day after the embassies of Britain, the United States and Norway issued a joint statement saying the “legitimate change” the Sudanese people demanded had not taken place.
“It is time for the transitional military council and all other parties to enter into an inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule,” they said.
The SPA has said a transitional government and the armed forces must bring to justice both Bashir and officials from his feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
The military council on Sunday met with political parties and urged them to agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister, an AFP correspondent at the meeting said.
“We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice and democracy,” a council member, Lt. Gen. Yasser Al-Ata, told members of several political parties.
A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered a list of demands during talks with the council late Saturday, according to a statement by the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group.
But in a press conference, the council’s spokesman did not respond to the protesters’ latest demands.
He did however announce the appointment of a new NISS head after the intelligence agency’s chief Salih Ghosh resigned on Saturday.
The foreign ministry said military council head General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan was “committed to having a complete civilian government” and urged other nations to back the council in order to achieve “the Sudanese goal of democratic transition.”
In the latest shake-up, Burhan on Monday named Lt. Gen. Hashim Abdelmotalib as the army’s chief of staff.
American actor George Clooney, who has campaigned hard to draw attention to the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, over the weekend urged world powers to pressure the military “to turn over full executive power to a civilian-led transitional government.”
“The most potent form of leverage would be to go after the assets laundered by Bashir and his allies through the international financial system,” Clooney wrote in a joint Washington Post column with rights activist John Prendergast.
The military council’s deputy Himeidti is a field commander for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) counter-insurgency unit, which rights groups have accused of abuses in Darfur.
But at the protest site Monday, witnesses said demonstrators put up a banner with a photograph of Himeidti which read: “We will not forget that you stood with us.”
Burhan has pledged that individuals implicated in killing protesters would face justice and that demonstrators detained under a state of emergency imposed by Bashir during his final weeks in power would be freed.
Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was deposed last week following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.
Tens of thousands of people have massed non-stop outside the army headquarters since April 6, initially urging the military to back their demand for Bashir’s removal.
But his departure in a coup failed to satisfy the protesters, who have pushed for justice for Bashir-era officials.
The SPA has also called for the confiscation of properties belonging to the ousted president’s National Congress Party and the release of soldiers who sided with their movement.
Late on Sunday, the military council said it has set up a committee to register NCP properties and seize control of them.


Protests, explosions hit Iraq’s south as demos maintain strength

Updated 2 min 33 sec ago

Protests, explosions hit Iraq’s south as demos maintain strength

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s south saw further protests and explosions, as demonstrations against the government and its Iranian sponsor that erupted on October 1 persist unabated, according to security sources.
The southern city of Amara was rocked overnight by four near-simultaneous explosions targeting premises of two pro-Iran armed factions, according to police.
“Three sound grenades targeted two premises and the house of an Assaib Ahl Al-Haq leader and an improvised explosive device targeted the house of an Ansar Allah commander,” police said.
Asaib Ahl Al-Haq is one of the most powerful groups in Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi security force, a network of armed groups integrated into the state, of which Ansar Allah is also a component.
Medical sources reported three wounded by the blasts.
Founded in 2014 to fight IS jihadists who had seized swathes of northern Iraq and neighboring Syria, the Hashed is made up of mostly Shiite factions, many of which have been backed by Iran.
According to security sources, the attacks were committed against the groups due to their loyalty to neighboring Iran, whose influence continues to grow in Iraq, in particular via armed groups that it has long trained and financed.
These attacks come shortly after the recent bloodshed in several Iraqi cities, the latest seeing 24 people killed, including four police officers, on Friday evening in central Baghdad.
Both the state and the demonstrators accuse armed men of perpetrating the violence, the former claiming that it is not possible to identify those responsible, while the latter point to pro-Iran entities.
Since October 1, Iraq’s capital and its Shiite-majority south have been gripped by rallies against corruption, poor public services, a lack of jobs and Iran’s perceived political interference.
More than 450 people have been killed and more than 20,000 wounded during the unprecedented protest movement demanding an overhaul of the political system.
In the holy Shiite city of Karbala, protesters rallied at the police station to demand information within 24 hours on the death of Fahem Al-Tai, a 53-year-old prominent civil society activist gunned down in a drive-by shooting on Sunday evening while returning home from protests.
Others blocked access to the courthouse to demand proceedings be launched against local leaders for corruption — a key priority of the protest movement in a country ranked the 12th most corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.
In Diwaniya, also in the south, protesters blocked the road to the Shanafiya oil refinery, according to police, demanding employment.
Despite Iraq being OPEC’s second-largest crude producer, one in five of its people live in poverty and youth unemployment stands at one quarter of the population, the World Bank says.
Protesters from several cities in the south on Tuesday joined thousands of demonstrators gathered for more than two months in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, which is the epicenter of the demonstrations in the capital.
“We came to support our brothers in Baghdad,” said an activist in the movement from Nassiriya, Haydar Kazem.