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Sudan: huge crowds call for civilian rule in biggest protest since Bashir ousting

Saturday 20 April 2019, by siawi3

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/19/sudan-huge-crowds-call-for-civilian-rule-in-biggest-protest-since-bashir-ousting

Sudan: huge crowds call for civilian rule in biggest protest since Bashir ousting

Hundreds of thousands converge on defence ministry demanding military hand over power

Reuters in Khartoum

Fri 19 Apr 2019 02.29 BST

Photo: Huge crowds of protesters throng the Sudanese capital Khartoum, calling for the military to hand power over to civilians. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

Huge crowds formed outside Sudan’s defence ministry to demand the country’s transitional military council hand over power to civilians.

Hundreds of thousands packed the streets by early evening on Thursday – the largest crowds to gather in the centre of the capital since last week, when the former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted and the military council took over.

Protesters chanted, “Freedom and revolution are the choice of the people†and “Civilian rule, civilian rule†, and waved national flags. Giant screens showed a film documenting apparent abuses by the security services.

“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.â€

Read more: Qur’an and AK-47: the 30-year rule of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir

The protesters joined a sit-in that began on 6 April outside the defence ministry – the culmination of 16 weeks of protests triggered by a worsening economic crisis. It led to Bashir being ousted and arrested after three decades in power.

The council has said it is ready to meet some of the protesters’ demands, including fighting corruption, but has indicated that it would not hand over power to protest leaders.

It has said that a transitional period of up to two years will be followed by elections and that it is ready to work with anti-Bashir activists 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, Lt Gen Salah Abdelkhalek, told state TV 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. The ball is in their court.â€

A Sudanese protester holds up a placard during the biggest protest since the former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

The US state department on Thursday called on Sudan’s military to step aside and make way for a peaceful civilian-led transition.

“The will of the Sudanese people is clear: it is time to move toward a transitional government that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law,†a department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

A senior state department official said the US deputy assistant secretary Makila James would hold talks in Khartoum over the weekend, to assess the situation on the ground.

The official described the situation in Sudan as “extremely fluid†and said it was important to avoid a “quagmire of endless deliberations†over who should lead an interim civilian authority.

The US said it was encouraged by the release of political prisoners and the cancellation of a curfew.

It said Washington’s policies toward Sudan would be based on “our assessment of events on the ground and the actions of transitional authorities†.