A week after the fall of Sudan’s long-time President Omar al-Bashir, a huge crowd has converged in the streets of the capital, demanding the country’s transitional military council hand over power to civilians.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed the streets outside the defense ministry in Khartoum on Thursday, chanting “Civilian rule, civilian rule.”
Protesters waving national flags were also chanting “Freedom and revolution are the choice of the people.”
“We will remain in the street until power is handed to civilian authority,” said 24-year-old protester Samia Abdallah. “We will bring down military rule.”
Demonstrators joined a sit-in protest that began early this month outside an army complex, which houses the president’s residence and the defense ministry — the culmination of 16 weeks of protests which initially erupted on December 19, 2018, in the face of a government decision to triple the price of bread.
The protests finally led to Bashir being ousted and arrested after almost three decades in power.
The ten-man military council, which has taken power, announced a two-year transition period to civilian rule. The council has also promised to work with Bashir opponents and opposition groups to form an interim civilian government.
“We are completely committed to handing over power within a maximum two years,” one of the members of the council, Lieutenant General Salah Abdelkhalek said on Thursday.
“Perhaps the most difficult issue facing the military council now through its political committee is getting agreement from the political spectrum and the community forces on the naming of a prime minister,” Abdelkhalek said. “The ball is in their court.”
This is while Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced their backing for the transitional military council.
Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan on Tuesday praised Sudan’s distinguished relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE), official SUNA news agency reported.
Burhan, who is known for his ties to the Saudi kingdom, met with a joint delegation from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi this week, and received a verbal message from their leaders.
Sudan’s new defacto head Abdelfatah Burhan praises the “special relationship” between Sudan and Saudi Arabia & the UAE yesterday, as a joint delegation arrives in Khartoum and meets with him at the military compound – where people are still sitting in, in protest. https://t.co/OYTy3p8VbS
— Yousra Elbagir (@YousraElbagir) April 17, 2019
The council’s spokesman said on Thursday that the undersecretary at Sudan’s foreign ministry had been dismissed for preparing for the visit of a delegation from Qatar, the regional rival of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi said the ministry had made the statement without consulting the council.
Analysts warn that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are striving to influence the transition process by backing the military council.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cultivated close ties with Bashir before his ouster and were reportedly exhorting him to forge relations with Israel.
With protests raging in Sudan, however, the London-based Middle East Eye reported in March that the head of Mossad had met his Sudanese counterpart in Germany as part of a secret plan by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE to oust Bashir.