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Sudan: Massive crowds assemble to demand civilian rule

April 25, 2019

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese citizens have responded to calls for a million-strong march. Organizers seek to force military leaders to hand over power to a civilian government.

Protesters gather in Khartoum, Sudan
Image: Reuters/U. Bektas

Sudan's military leaders are coming under increasing pressure to hand over power to a civilian government as massive crowds continue to gather at a sit-in that began at the defense ministry in the capital Khartoum on April 6.

The main organizers, the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA) and the umbrella group Alliance for Freedom and Change, hope that the swelling crowds will prompt the military to expedite the process of transitioning power.

Thus far, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) has been unable to articulate just when power will be handed over. Sudan's military has controlled the country since it ousted President Omar al-Bashir in early April, after 30 years in power.

Organizers from the Alliance of Freedom and Change said, "Our sit-in will continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved."

A slow process

The TMC originally said it would run the country for up to two years. On Thursday, the TMC announced that it possessed, "sovereign authority only, while the head of the Cabinet, the civilian government and all the executive authority will be completely civilian."

On Wednesday evening, the SPA and the TMC agreed to form a committee to resolve their differences. Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi, a spokesman for the TMC, said of the meeting, "We have an agreement on most demands," adding, "there were no big disputes."

Representatives from the SPA called the meeting a step towards building confidence, emphasizing, "both sides agreed on the importance of joint co-operation to steer the country towards peace and stability."

One of the first steps taken after the meeting was the resignation of three military leaders the SPA accuses of killing dozens of protesters in a crackdown.

Demonstrators are also calling for the punishment of military leaders who previously served under Bashir.

'We'll continue our struggle'

Off the bench and onto the street

Calls for civilian rule were also made by judges, some 100 of whom marched to the Defense Ministry from the Supreme Court in black robes, chanting, "Civilian, civilian, protected by the judiciary."

Moreover, they called for the prosecution of corruption, the removal of symbols of the former regime from courthouses, and the firing of the head of the country's judiciary.

Warning the neighbors

Protesters also gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy to call on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to steer clear of Sudan's affairs.

El-Sissi, a former military general who came to power after the removal of a sitting president, currently holds the rotating African Union presidency. On Tuesday, he and other African leaders agreed to extend the original 15-day deadline the TMC had been given to hand over power for another three months.

js/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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