Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 November 2019

Sudan protest leaders call 'million-strong' march as military talks falter

Disagreement over the make-up of an interim council strains military-civilian relations

Leaders of Sudan's civilian revolt called for a "million-strong" march in Khartoum on Thursday as a show of force to military rulers, who have opposed civilian demands for a majority in a power-sharing council.

Three weeks after Omar Al Bashir was ousted by the Sudanese army, the civilian Alliance for Freedom and Change, which led the protests against the former president, called for the Sudanese people to take to the streets once again.

A disagreement over the structure of an interim military-civil council prompted the alliance to announce the march to demand civilian rule, they said.

"The military council is not serious about handing over power to civilians," said Mohamed Naji Al Assam, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association that is part of the alliance.

"The military council insists that the [joint] council should be military-led with civilian representation."

He said the army had been seeking to "expand its powers daily".

The alliance wants a council of eight civilians and seven generals, while the military wants one of seven military representatives and three civilians.

The alliance's call for the people to take to the streets has exacerbated tensions between the military and civilians.

The military warned that it would not allow "chaos", urging the protesters to dismantle a makeshift barricade they erected in front of the army headquarters, which has emerged as the centre of the protests. It also said six security personnel were killed in clashes with protesters across the country on Monday.

The military council's deputy head, Lt Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo has said it is "committed to negotiations but [will allow] no chaos".

The council spokesman, Lt Gen Shamseddin Al Kabbashi, said the "armed forces must remain in the sovereign council" because of tensions facing the country.

Mr Al Bashir was deposed in a midnight coup on April 11 last month, ending his 30-year rule but raising questions about the future of the country.

The military intervened following a six-day escalation in protests against the leader, which started in December last year over the price of bread.

In the vacuum following Mr Al Bashir's arrest, the military declared they would take control of the government until a democratically elected civilian administration could be put in place.

But protesters accused the military of being no different from the leader they fought to depose and demanded a civilian-led interim government.

In a breakthrough on Saturday, the two sides agreed to a power-sharing civilian-military body and began talks to finalise its composition.

Updated: May 2, 2019 05:22 PM

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