Crowds flood Khartoum as standoff is on

KHARTOUM: Sudanese demonstrators were preparing to hold a “million-strong” march on Thursday to press for a civilian administration after talks with military rulers ran into trouble.
The two sides have agreed on forming a joint civilian-military council to rule Sudan but are at odds over its composition.
Protest leaders from the Alliance for Freedom and Change say the army is not serious about handing power to civilians, three weeks after it toppled veteran president Omar al Bashir.
The army has been pushing for a 10-member council including seven military representatives and three civilians.
The alliance is demanding a council made up of eight civilians and seven generals.
The disagreement prompted the alliance to announce a “million-strong march to assert our main demand, which is for civilian rule”.
The call has exacerbated tensions between the two sides.
“We expect the march to draw huge crowds today,” said Ahmed al Rabia, a leader from the protest movement.
The military council has warned it will not allow “chaos” and urged protesters to dismantle makeshift barricades they have set up around the main protest site outside army headquarters.
It also demanded protesters open roads and bridges blocked by demonstrators who have camped outside the headquarters for weeks, even after Bashir’s ouster.
The march itself was not expected to get under way until mid-afternoon, when the worst of the midday heat had passed.
But the protesters camped in the square outside army headquarters kept up a festive atmosphere with loudspeakers blaring out revolutionary songs and vendors selling fruit and peanuts, an AFP correspondent reported.
As both sides in the standoff remained intransigent, they held separate news conferences on Tuesday to explain their divergent views.
“The military council is not serious about handing over power to civilians,” said Mohamed Naji al Assam, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) spearheading the protests.
“The military council insists that the (joint) council should be military-led with civilian representation,” Assam said, adding the army had been seeking to “expand its powers daily”.
In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Sudan’s main opposition leader Sadiq al Mahdi warned protest leaders against provoking the military.
“If we provoke the… armed forces which contributed to the change, we would be asking for trouble,” he said.
The military council’s deputy head Mohammad Hamdan Dagolo has said it is “committed to negotiations but (will allow) no chaos”.
Hamdan, widely known as Himeidti, and some of his colleagues spoke of incidents since the protests first broke out in December including looting and burning of markets.
He said across the country six security personnel had been killed during protests on Monday.
The spokesman of the military council, Lieutenant General Shamseddin al Kabbashi, said the “armed forces must remain in the sovereign council” because of tensions facing the country. — AFP