Military coup ousts Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Sudan's military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after months of bloody street protests over his repressive 30-year rule. But pro-democracy demonstrators were left angry and disappointed when the defence minister announced the armed forces will govern the country for the next two years.

'They removed a thief and brought in a thief!' Protesters shout their apprehension of al-Bashir's replacement

Sudanese military soldiers look on as demonstrators attended a protest demanding Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down outside the defence ministry in Khartoum on April 8. (Reuters)

Sudan's state-run broadcaster says Defence Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Auf is being sworn in as head of a new military council that will run the country for two years.

The move is being taken after the military ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday following nearly four months of expanding protests.

The broadcaster says military chief of staff Kamal Abdel-Marouf al-Mahi will be the deputy head of the council.

Bashir's fall came just over a week after Algeria's long-ruling, military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was driven from power.

Together, the developments echoed the Arab Spring uprisings eight years ago that brought down entrenched rulers across the Middle East. But like those popular movements of 2011, the new ones face a similar dynamic — a struggle over what happens after an autocrat's removal.

Protest organizers in Sudan denounced the army's takeover and vowed to continue rallies until a civilian transitional government is formed. Tens of thousands of demonstrators were massed at a sit-in they have held for nearly a week outside the military's headquarters in central Khartoum, the capital.

After the televised announcement of Bashir's arrest by Ibn Auf — who is under U.S. sanctions for links to atrocities in Sudan's Darfur conflict — many protesters chanted angrily, "The first one fell, the second will, too!" Some shouted, "They removed a thief and brought in a thief!"

Ibn Auf said the military council that will be formed by the army, intelligence agencies and security apparatus will rule for two years, after which "free and fair elections" will take place.

He also announced that the military had suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country's borders and airspace and imposed a curfew starting Thursday night.

Sudanese defence minister Awad Mohamed Ibn Auf announced the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir on state TV. (Sudan TV/Reuters TV )

In the wake of the coup, international human rights groups urged Sudanese military authorities to hand over the 75-year-old Bashir to the International Criminal Court, where he faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his deadly campaign against insurgents in the country's Darfur region.

Amnesty International's secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, said Bashir is wanted for "some of the most odious human rights violations of our generation."

"We routinely called and will continue to call for member states to have full co-operation with the ICC [International Criminal Court], consistent with the Security Council resolution," Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the secretary general of the United Nations, said Thursday.

"The message at this point today is calm and restraint; and that the secretary general expects that the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people will be realized through an appropriate and inclusive transition process. But obviously the situation remains fluid, and we will continue to watch it." 

Bashir, whose whereabouts were not immediately known, came to power in a coup of his own in 1989, backed by the military and Islamist hard-liners. He kept an iron grip on power and brutally suppressed any opposition, while monopolizing the economy through allied businessmen.

Over his three decades in control, he was forced to allow the secession of South Sudan after years of war, a huge blow to the north's economy. He became an international pariah over the bloodletting in Darfur. And the U.S. targeted his government repeatedly with sanctions and airstrikes for his support of Islamic militants.

Throughout, he was a swaggering figure known to dance with his cane in front of cheering crowds.

The Sudanese president addressed parliament in the capital Khartoum on April 1. It was his first such speech since he imposed a state of emergency across the country in February. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)

The street protests that erupted in December were met with crackdowns by the government that left dozens of people dead, and eventually turned the military leadership against Bashir. Several times in the past week, army troops trying to protect the rallies exchanged fire with security forces.

The protests — involving a mix of young activists, students, professional-employee unions and opposition parties — were initially fuelled by anger over the deteriorating economy, but quickly turned to demands for the president's ouster, and gained momentum last week after Bouteflika's resignation in Algeria.

Demonstrators rally outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum on Thursday to demand that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir step down. (Reuters)

Word of Bashir's removal emerged in the morning, when state TV announced that the military was about to make an "important statement," and two high-ranking officials told The Associated Press that Bashir had been ousted. That prompted thousands of protesters to march toward the center of Khartoum, cheering, singing and dancing in celebration.

The announcement finally came hours later from Ibn Auf, a key power figure in Bashir's regime.

Replacing coup with a coup

"I, the defence minister, the head of the Supreme Security Committee, announce the uprooting of this regime and the seizing of its head, after detaining him in a safe place," he said.

He denounced Bashir's government for "bad administration, systemic corruption, absence of justice."

"The poor became poorer and the rich became richer. Hope in equality has been lost," Ibn Auf said.

He also said Bashir's crackdown against protesters risked splitting the security establishment and "could cause grave casualties."

Watch: Sudanese-Canadians hopeful, reflective in wake of presidential coup

Sudanese-Canadians hopeful, reflective in wake of presidential coup

4 years ago
Duration 2:10
Sudanese diaspora in Canada recount fleeing the African country and hope the ouster of the president by the military will lead to meaningful change.

Mariam al-Mahdi, a leading member of the opposition Umma, called the military's takeover "a dangerous move."

"Our demands are clear: We don't want to replace a coup with a coup," al-Mahdi said.

Security forces have come down hard on the protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons. Bashir banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police after imposing a state of emergency last month.

After Bouteflika's fall, the Khartoum protesters launched the sit-in, and the clampdown grew bloodier, with at least 22 people killed since Saturday.