Sudan tensions escalate after talks with military break down

Tensions are rising in Sudan after talks broke down between protesters and the country's military rulers who earlier in April ousted President Omar al-Bashir after months of street protests against his rule.

Protesters fear the military is trying to cling to power

Sudanese protesters gather as they shout slogans and wawe national flags during a protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Sunday. Protesters are demanding a shift to civilian rule. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)

Tensions escalated Monday after talks broke down between Sudanese protesters and the country's military rulers amid indications the army could move in to break up the demonstration in the capital, Khartoum.

The protesters, who have been rallying outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, have demanded a swift handover of power to civilian rule after the military ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month after four months of street protests against his 30-year rule.

A military council, which took over after Bashir's ouster and arrest, issued a statement Monday calling for an "immediate opening of the roads and removal of the barricades" around the sit-in in Khartoum.

It also asked that other roads, closed by similar protests across the country, be opened.

However, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has led the months of protests against Bashir, vowed to carry on with their sit-in. It also called for a march on Tuesday and mass protests on Thursday, when the organizers plan to announce their own transitional council in a challenge to the military's.

Overnight, large crowds lit up the night sky with their cellphones, singing and chanting as protest leaders delivered fiery speeches outside the military complex in Khartoum.

Qurashi Diefallah, a protester, said they're disappointed because the army is "just an extension of the regime which stole 30 years from us."

Civilian cabinet, legislative council proposed

The organizers on Sunday suspended talks with the military council, saying it failed to meet their demands for an immediate transfer to a civilian government.

Spokesperson Mohammed al-Amin Abdel Aziz said the council was too close to Bashir, who has been jailed in Khartoum.

"The military council is delaying its response to our proposals, saying that they are considering proposals from all political forces," he said.

Their proposals also include the formation of a cabinet of technocrats to run daily affairs of the country and a legislative council, in which women represent no less than 40 per cent, to draft laws and oversee the cabinet until a new constitution is written.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council, told state TV on Sunday the council would hand over power immediately to a "civilian government agreed by all political forces" — an attempt to discredit the protesters as only one player in Sudan's political arena.

The council, he said, had received "more than 100 visions" from various political factions for the future the county, including that of the protest organizers. He said the military would respond to proposals within a week.

After overthrowing and arresting Bashir on April 11, the military council said it would rule for up to two years while elections are organized. The military has also arrested senior officials from Bashir's government and sacked top judges and prosecutors.

The protesters fear the military — dominated by Bashir appointees — will cling to power or replace the ousted president with a military figure.


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