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Sudan civilians reject army offer, urge more protests

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KHARTOUM: Sudan's main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the country's coup leader to make way for civilian rule as a "transparent manoeuvre" and urged more protests.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan, whose power grab last October ousted the FFC, had vowed in a surprise move on Monday to "make room" for civilian groups to form a new transition government.

But the FFC on Tuesday called for "continued public pressure" on the streets after days of protests and dismissed Burhan's move as a "tactical retreat and a transparent manoeuvre".

"The coup leader's speech is a giant ruse, even worse than the October 25 coup," said FFC leader Taha Othman. "The crisis will end with the coup leaders resigning and the forces of the revolution forming a civil government."

On the streets of Khartoum, protesters again defied security forces and held firm on their makeshift barricades.

"We don't have confidence in Burhan," said Muhammad Othman, perched on a pile of bricks. "We just want him to leave once and for all."

The FFC has so far refused to take part in talks with military leaders, which were launched under international auspices in an effort to restore the transition to civilian rule.

Burhan said late on Monday the military would no longer participate in the talks facilitated by the United Nations, African Union and the regional IGAD bloc, wanting instead "to make room for political and revolutionary forces and other national factions" to form a civilian government.

The announcement came eight months after the coup ousted civilians from a transitional administration, sparking widespread international condemnation and aid cuts to the northeast African nation.

Security forces -- as they have done repeatedly during the long-running protests -- sought to break up the crowds by firing barrages of stun grenades and tear gas, according to pro-democracy medics.

The latest coup not only worsened a political crisis but has pushed Sudan deeper into a dire economic slump.

International actors have been pushing for civilian and military leaders to negotiate a return to the democratic transition they had started after the 2019 ouster of longtime ruler Omar al Bashir.

Hours after his surprise announcement, Burhan on Tuesday flew to Kenya for an IGAD emergency summit of East African leaders.

Kholood Khair, of the Khartoum think-tank Insight Strategy Partners, said she believed Burhan's announcement was made to put "the pressure on the civilians" but warned that it might change little on the ground.

"There's no talk of accountability," Khair said, noting that "core grievances remain."

Burhan's televised address came as hundreds of anti-coup demonstrators continued protests.

Pro-democracy medics said nine demonstrators lost their lives on Thursday, the deadliest violence so far this year, bringing to 114 the number killed in the crackdown against anti-coup protesters.

Protester Oumeima Hussein, speaking on Monday, said the army chief must be "judged for all those killed since the coup" and vowed to "topple him like we did to Bashir".

Khair warned that protesters feared that, after Burhan had put Bashir-era "fighters back in government", the coup leader was setting military and allied armed groups up to "retain economic privileges."

Sudan's military dominates lucrative companies in sectors from agriculture to infrastructure.

Burhan said on Monday that "the formation of the executive government" will be followed by "the dissolution of the Sovereign Council" -- the ruling authority formed under a fragile power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians in 2019.

Also created would be a "Supreme Council of Armed Forces", to be in charge of defence and security.

It would combine the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, a much feared and powerful unit commanded by Burhan's deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. - AFP

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