Sudan activists warn of attempt to clear protest camp

AFP , Monday 15 Apr 2019

Sudanese demonstrators search newcomers as they wait beside makeshift barricades in Khartoum, Sudan April 15, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

Activists warned of an attempt to disperse a 10-day-old mass protest outside army headquarters Monday, as Sudan's new military rulers came under rising pressure to hand power to a civilian government.

"Until we see tangible results, we are not moving from here," said protester Abdulhadi Hajj Ahmed, as crowds remained camped outside the complex in Khartoum.

Thousands of demonstrators have kept up their sit-in despite the ouster last week of veteran president Omar al-Bashir, continuing their push for civilian rule after protest leaders issued demands to the new military council.

The organisation that spearheaded the months of protests leading to Bashir's fall, the Sudanese Professionals Association, warned Monday of "an attempt to disperse the sit-in".

"We call on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area to protect our revolution," the SPA said in a statement, without saying who was responsible.

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.

"I felt frustrated when they tried to break the sit-in, but I still trust the army because it's not possible that they would give up on protesters," said demonstrator Mohamed al-Fatih.

Portraits of people killed in the months of rallies covered the facades of several buildings in the area.

Protester Rasha, who gave only her first name, said she trusted the junior army officers but not the senior ones.

"I'm afraid they might make another attempt to break the sit-in," she told AFP.

- Council 'committed' to transition -
Britain's ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, met the new military council's deputy Monday 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, Siddiq wrote on Twitter that he also backed the SPA's call for a civilian administration.

Himeidti is a field commander for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) counter-insurgency unit, which rights groups have accused of abuses in the war-torn Darfur region.

But at the protest site Monday, witnesses saw a banner with a photograph of Himeidti which read: "We will not forget that you stood with us."

The diplomatic talks came a day after the embassies of Britain, the United States and Norway issued a joint statement calling for "inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule".

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, Lieutenant General Yasser al-Ata, told members of several political parties.

- Council 'committed' to transition -
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 news 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 Lieutenant General Hashim Abdelmotalib as the army's chief of staff.

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.

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.

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