Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

Sudan protest group says attempt to break up sit-in outside defence ministry under way

The Sudanese Professionals Association called on people to respond by joining the sit-in to 'protect your revolution'

Sudanese protesters are moving to block attempts to break up a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, where they have been demanding civilian rule since the military removed Omar Al Bashir as president last week.

A two-year transitional period under military rule was announced after Mr Al Bashir’s arrest on April 11 and demonstrators said they would continue their 10-day sit-in.

On Monday troops gathered on three sides of the sit-in and tractors prepared to remove barricades until protesters joined hands to form a ring around the area.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, a group of unofficial unions that has been leading the protests, called on Sudanese people to gather to prevent the dispersal.

“Attempts to dismantle the protest are still ongoing,” the group tweeted on Monday. “We invite the rebels from all over the capital to head towards the protest location.”

The protesters, numbering about 5,000 with more arriving, chanted "Freedom, freedom" and "Revolution, revolution", while appealing to the army to protect them.

The sit-in outside the compound, which also includes the intelligence headquarters and the presidential residence, began on April 6, after more than three months of turmoil triggered by a deepening economic crisis.

On Thursday, Sudan's army announced it had removed and detained Mr Al Bashir after three decades in power and was setting up a transitional military council to run the country.

Since then the head of the military council and of Sudan's powerful intelligence services have both been replaced.

The association demands the immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government.

It said that government and the armed forces must bring Mr Al Bashir and officials from his feared National Intelligence and Security Service to justice.

The US, UK and Norway urged the military council and other parties to hold talks over the country's transition to civilian rule.

In a joint statement by their embassies on Sunday, they warned against any use of violence to break up the protests and said the "legitimate change" the Sudanese people demanded had not taken place.

"It is time for the transitional military council and all other parties to enter into an inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule," they said.

"This must be done credibly and swiftly, with protest leaders, political opposition, civil society organisations and all relevant elements of society, including women."

The protesters have already forced concessions from the military council, including the end of a curfew and a promise to release political prisoners.

A 10-member delegation delivered a list of demands during talks with the council late on Saturday.

But the council's spokesman did not respond to protesters' latest demands, although he did announce the appointment of a new intelligence chief.

Protest leaders have called for the intelligence agency, whose chief Salih Ghosh resigned on Saturday, to be restructured and for officials to face prosecution.

TThey also demand the confiscation of property belonging to Mr Al Bashir’s National Congress Party and the release of soldiers who sided with their "revolution".

Late on Sunday, the military council said it set up a committee to register the properties and took control of them.

The foreign ministry said the military council's chief, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, was "committed to having a complete civilian government" and urged other nations to back the council to achieve "the Sudanese goal of democratic transition".

On Saturday, Gen Al Burhan pledged to dismantle Mr Al Bashir's regime and said that people implicated in killing protesters would face justice.

The military council on Sunday met political parties and urged them to agree on an "independent figure" to be prime minister, AFP reported.

"We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice and democracy," council member Lt Gen Yasser Al Ata, told members of political parties.

On Monday the military council said it was restructuring the military command council and appointed Col Gen Hashem Babakr as army chief of staff.

Updated: April 16, 2019 02:43 AM

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