Sudan new military rulers offer dialogue

Khartoum: Sudan’s new military rulers vowed on Friday to open a dialogue with all political groups on forming a civilian government as protesters railed against their seizure of power after ousting president Omar al Bashir.
But the military council warned it would tolerate no breaches of security after protesters defied a night-time curfew to keep up a sit-in demanding immediate civilian rule.
The head of the council’s political committee, Lieutenant General Omar Zain al Abdin, confirmed that Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years and was one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, remained in custody.
But he said the council would never extradite him, or any other Sudanese, despite a longstanding arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes.
Protesters had held mass demonstrations for four months demanding Bashir’s overthrow, defying repeated deadly attempts to crush them by riot police and the feared intelligence services.
But when the ouster was finally announced on Thursday in an address to the nation by Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf, it was met not with joy but anger.
Protest leaders dismissed the transitional military council as the “same old faces” from the old regime which had led the country into multiple conflicts and worsening poverty and social inequality.
Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything”, said one protester who gave his name only as Adel.
“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir.”
Analysts said that Bashir’s overthrow in a palace coup made the transition to democracy in Sudan a more distant prospect.
“Ironically, the prospects for democratic transition may be more remote than when Bashir was in power as there’s no centre of power with which to negotiate,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
“The power struggle within the security cabal that took power yesterday is just beginning. Bashir had kept their rivalries and ambitions in check; his removal brings in its wake an unregulated uncertainty.”
Thousands defied a warning from the miliary council to respect the night-time curfew imposed from 10 pm to 4 am, to maintain their vigil outside army headquarters in Khartoum for a sixth straight night.
Protesters were seen chatting with soldiers posted outside. They said their quarrel was with the commanders who had led the coup, not the rank and file.
“There was no difference between last night and previous days and nights for us,” said one protester who gave his name as Abu Obeida.
“This is now our square. We have taken it and won’t leave until victory is achieved.
“We broke the curfew. We will continue doing it until we have a civilian transitional government.”
Calls for restraint on all sides have poured in from abroad.
Washington called on the military council “to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government”.
The European Union urged the army to carry out a “swift” handover to civilian rule.
UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a transition that would meet the “democratic aspirations” of the Sudanese people and appealed for “calm and utmost restraint by all”, his spokesman said. That came after the African Union decried Bashir’s military overthrow, saying it was “not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people”.
Most shops and offices were closed on Friday which is the day of prayer and rest in Sudan.
But vast crowds were expected to throng the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman after the main weekly Muslim prayers at noon raising fears of confrontation between protesters and the security forces.
“Our basic mission is to maintain the country’s stability and security,” the head of the military council’s political committee told Friday’s news conference.
“We will not allow any breach of security anywhere.”
Sudan’s last elected prime minister, opposition Umma party leader Sadiq al Mahdi, who was overthrown by Bashir in a military coup in 1989, was expected to address supporters after prayers at one of Omdurman’s most revered mosques. — AFP