Sudanese have not forgotten that they want a civilian leader

SUDAN’S military rulers faced heavy pressure from protesters and Western governments to hand power to a new civilian government on Monday, as a mass protest outside army headquarters entered its 10th day.

Thousands remained camped outside the complex in Khartoum overnight after protest leaders issued demands to the military council set up following the ousting of veteran president Omar al-Bashir.

The organisation that spearheaded the months of protests leading to Bashir’s fall, the Sudanese Professionals Association, urged the council ‘to immediately transfer power to a civilian government.’

It said the resulting transitional government and the armed forces must bring to justice both Bashir and officials from his feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

The US, UK and Norway urged the military council and other parties to hold talks over the country’s transition to civilian rule.

In a joint statement by their embassies on Sunday, they warned against any use of violence to break up the protests, and said 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.

‘This must be done credibly and swiftly, with protest leaders, political opposition, civil society organisations, and all relevant elements of society, including women.’

Council ‘committed’ to transition

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 media conference later, the council’s spokesperson did not respond to the protesters’ latest demands, although he did announce the appointment of a new intelligence chief of the NISS.

Protest leaders have called for the feared intelligence agency, whose chief, Salih Ghosh, resigned on Saturday, to be restructured and for NISS officials to face prosecution.

The foreign ministry said the military council’s chief, Gen 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.’

On Saturday, Burhan vowed to dismantle Bashir’s regime, lifting a night-time curfew with immediate effect.

He also pledged that individuals implicated in killing protesters would face justice and that protesters 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 nonstop 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 called for justice for Bashir-era officials.

The Sudanese Professionals Association also demanded the confiscation of properties belonging to his National Congress Party and the release of soldiers who sided with their ‘revolution.’

Late on Sunday, the military council said it has set up a committee to register NCP properties and take control of them.

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