New Sudan military leader promises civilian government

Protesters call for rapid change following overthrow of autocrat president Omar al-Bashir

Protesters chant slogans during a protest outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan on April 13th. Photograph: EPA/STR

Protesters chant slogans during a protest outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan on April 13th. Photograph: EPA/STR

 

The new head of Sudan’s military council said on Saturday a civilian government would be formed after consultations with the opposition and promised the transition period would last for a maximum of two years.

Protesters, however, kept up the pressure for rapid change following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat president Omar al-Bashir on Thursday.

In his first televised address, Lieut Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman cancelled a night curfew and ordered the release of all prisoners jailed under emergency laws put in place by Mr Bashir before his downfall.

During a meeting between the transitional military council and a coalition of opposition groups, including protest organisers, the protesters demanded that civilians be included in the council, opposition activists who were briefed about the meeting said.

They will submit names of suggested members on Sunday.

The military council also promised to “abolish all laws that restrict freedoms,” the activists said.

The main group organiser, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), said in a statement that the council’s response was not satisfactory and called for protests to continue.

The SPA said that among its key demands the restructuring of the country’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the dissolution of militia forces that operated under Mr Bashir and the arrest of all “corrupt leaders” involved in what it called crimes against citizens.

“There are clear demands and unless they are met, there is no escape but to publicise full rejection (of the council’s moves),” the SPA statement said, urging citizens to continue a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry.

Thousands of people continued their sit-in outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum, a Reuters witness said.

Mr Bashir was overthrown on Thursday after months of mass protests brought on by rising food costs, high unemployment and increasing repression during his three decades in power.

But activists and opposition groups pressed ahead with demands that Mr Bashir’s close associates leave.

On Friday, Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, who was also Mr Bashir’s deputy, stepped down as head of the transitional military council after only a day in the post.

On Saturday, state news agency and TV announced that the head of NISS, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, better known as Salah Gosh, had also resigned.

He was once the most powerful person in the country after Mr Bashir and protesters held him responsible for the killing of demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Khartoum overnight after Ibn Auf’s resignation. Thousands of protesters waved flags and illuminated mobile phones in the darkness and drivers hooted car horns. People chanted: “The second has fallen!” a reference to Ibn Auf and Bashir, witnesses said. – Reuters