Month after Bashir ouster, Sudan far from civilian rule

Sudanese people queue up at an ATM in Khartoum on Thursday as a deep economic crisis sparks months of protests in the North African country. (AFP)
Updated 12 May 2019

Month after Bashir ouster, Sudan far from civilian rule

  • The protest movement says the military appears intent on hijacking the revolution and determining its outcome

KHARTOUM: One month after ousting veteran President Omar Al-Bashir, Sudan’s military rulers show no sign of handing power to a civilian administration and talks with protest leaders remain deadlocked.
Thousands of protesters remain encamped outside army headquarters in central Khartoum, vowing to force the generals to cede power just as they forced Bashir from office.
“We want civilian rule or we will stay here forever,” said protester Iman Hussein, a regular at the sit-in which protesters have kept up since April 6.
Protesters initially gathered at the army complex to seek the generals’ help in ending AlBashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule.
On April 11, the army toppled Bashir in a palace coup, replacing him with a military council formed entirely of generals that has shattered protesters’ dreams of a civilian-led transition to democracy.
The deepening economic crisis that fueled the four months of nationwide protests which led to Bashir’s ouster shows no sign of abating.
Huge queues form daily at ATM machines as the freezing up of the banking system forces consumers to use cash to buy basic goods made ever more expensive by the sliding value of the Sudanese pound.
The generals insist they will not use force to disperse the sit-in, which protesters have kept up through the daytime fasts observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.
The generals have offered several concessions to placate the protesters, including detaining Bashir in Khartoum’s Kober prison, arresting several of his lieutenants and promising to prosecute officers who killed protesters during the demonstrations against the old regime.
But when it comes to the protesters’ key demand for a civilian authority to oversee a four-year transition, the military has simply dragged its heels.
“They are pressuring us with time, but we are pressuring them with our presence here,” said protester Hussein.
“One of us has to win in the end, and it will be us.”
Last month, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, which brings together the protest movement and opposition and rebel groups, handed the generals its proposals for a civilian-led transition.
But the generals have expressed “many reservations” over the alliance’s roadmap.
They have singled out its silence on the constitutional position of Islamic sharia law which was the guiding principle of all legislation under Bashir’s rule but is anathema to secular groups like the Sudanese Communist Party and some rebel factions.
The protest movement says the military appears intent on hijacking the revolution and determining its outcome.
Protest leader Khalid Omar Yousef told reporters on Wednesday that the movement was now considering “escalatory measures” like launching a nationwide civil disobedience movement to achieve its demand.
The generals are under pressure too, with the United States and the African Union calling on them to ensure a smooth transition of power.
In a telephone call with military council chairman Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, backed “the Sudanese people’s aspirations for a free, democratic and prosperous future.”
The State Department said Sullivan encouraged Burhan to reach agreement with the Alliance for Freedom and Change and “move expeditiously toward a civilian-led interim government.”
Some members of the protest movement are optimistic however that the generals will ultimately cede power.
“They will hand over executive power to a civilian government if we present a credible, viable form of a civilian government,” opposition leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi, the prime minister Bashir overthrew in a 1989 coup, told AFP earlier this month.
“Because they know if ultimately they settle for a military dictatorship, they will be in the same position as Bashir.”

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.