UN envoy holds ‘substantial’ talks with Syrian FM in Damascus

African Union threatens to suspend Sudan’s membership unless military council steps down

KHARTOUM/CAIRO: Sudan’s protest leaders piled pressure on the country’s new military rulers on Monday to hand over power immediately to a civilian government. 

They were joined by the African Union, which threatened to suspend Sudan’s membership unless civilian authority is in place within 15 days. 

The replacement of former ruler Omar Al-Bashir with a transitional military council was an unacceptable coup d’etat, the African Union said. 

“A military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan,” it said. 

In a communique on Monday, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council called for Sudan’s military to transfer power to a “transitional civilian-led political authority” within 15 days or face suspension from the AU.

Lt. Gen. Jalal Al-Deen Al-Sheikh, a member of the TMC, met Ethiopia’s prime minister in Addis Ababa, where the AU is based, Sudanese state news agency SUNA said.

“We are already in the process of choosing a prime minister” for a civilian government,” Sheikh said at a news conference in Addis Ababa.

“So we are initiating this even before having this session with the African Union. This is our conviction and this is also the way forward to peace, but also, we respect it and we are committed to the decision of the Peace and Security Council.”

Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of the TMC, received phone calls from the Saudi king, UAE president, Qatari emir, Ethiopian prime minister and South Sudanese president, SUNA said on Monday. They expressed support for the TMC in “this delicate and historic stage” and their concern for the security and stability of the country, SUNA said.

The TMC’s deputy head, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known by his nickname Hemedti, said on Monday the Sudanese forces participating in the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen will remain there, SUNA said.

“We are adhering to our commitment to the coalition, and our forces will remain until the coalition fulfills its goals,” Hemedti said.

Members of a traditional Sudanese band perform during a sit-in protest outside the Defense Ministry in Khartoum on April 15, 2019. (REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Protesters deflect bid to end sit-in

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) called for the military council to be disbanded and a new interim civilian ruling council to be formed, with the armed forces having representation. 

“If our demand for the formation of a civilian transitional council with military representation is not met, we will not be part of the executive authority, the cabinet, and we will continue the mass escalation and the sit-ins to fulfill our demands,” SPA member Ahmed Al-Rabie said. 

The SPA issued its demands hours after protesters blocked an attempt to break up a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry that has continued despite Al-Bashir’s departure. 

Troops had gathered on three sides of the sit-in and tractors were preparing to remove stone and metal barriers, but protesters joined hands and formed rings around the sit-in area to prevent them. 

Some of the most prominent SPA leaders, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s and were detained until after Bashir’s ouster, spoke at the news conference.

Outside the Defense Ministry on Monday, about 5,000 protesters chanted “Freedom, freedom” and appealed to the army to protect them. 

SPA representatives also renewed their calls for the head of the judiciary and his deputies and the public prosecutor to be removed. They demanded the dissolution of Bashir’s National Congress Party, the seizure of the party’s assets and the arrest of its prominent figures. 

“For us in the SPA, in the first stage, the transitional government stage, we will play a role in the restoration of the civil service and state institutions and establishing a democratic state,” said Gamaria Omar, another SPA member.

“Afterwards, the SPA … will be a guardian of democracy.” Meanwhile, the extradition of Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges is a matter for the next civilian government, military council member Jalaluddin Sheikh said. 

“The decision whether to extradite Bashir to ICC will be made by a popularly elected government and not the transitional military council,” he said.

On Saturday, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, better known as Salah Gosh, resigned as head of NISS. He was once seen as the most powerful person in the country after Bashir and protesters held him responsible for the killing of demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.

“For us in the SPA, in the first stage, the transitional government stage, we will play a role in the restoration of the civil service and state institutions and establishing a democratic state,” said Gamaria Omar, an SPA member.

“Afterwards, the SPA will be comprised of unions, and will be a guardian of democracy in Sudan,” she added.

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