Sudan protesters firm on establishing civilian rule - GulfToday

Sudan protesters firm on establishing civilian rule

Sudan-Protests

Protesters march through the streets of Khartoum on Friday. Agence France-Presse

Thousands of protesters on Thursday gathered outside Sudan’s military headquarters to pressure the ruling generals to cede power. The sprawling military complex has become the focal point of the weeks-long protest movement, which is calling for the country’s Transitional Military Council to hand over power to civilians, following the ousting of longtime autocrat President Omar Al Bashir in April.

Meanwhile, the military council said incidents on the margins of the protest site were threatening public safety.

Protesters voiced concerns that the military council might disperse the Khartoum sit-in after a general dismissed it as “a threat to the revolution.”

Major General Othman Hamed of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has its roots in Sudan’s Janjaweed militias accused of genocide in the Darfur region, accused sit-in participants on Thursday of attracting prostitutes and hashish sellers. He also said demonstrators had thrown stones at soldiers.

The sit-in “has become a hub for all kind of criminal acts, and has become an unsafe place and has become a threat to the revolution and the revolutionaries, and is threat to the national security of the state,” Hamed said. “Therefore, we at the Rapid Support Forces in coordination with other security forces are responsible for restoring the safety of the citizens (and will) carry out legal procedures to stop these violations and this behavior.”

He did not elaborate on what that would mean for peaceful demonstrators.

“Such statements reveal the intention of the military council, which is not a partner to our revolution, to disperse the sit-in and to monopolize power,” Tarek Abdel Meguid, a leader of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of political groups and parties representing protesters.

He dismissed allegations of illicit activities levelled against demonstrators and alleged that elements belonging to the old regime are the ones committing such acts near the sit-in to tarnish the image of revolutionaries.

“Our people are holding a peaceful sit-in and they are holding religious as well as cultural rituals there,” said Abdel Meguid, also a leader of Sudan’s communist party.

“In the face of those developments that threaten public security and safety,” authorities would “work in accordance with the law to guarantee citizens’ safety and to resolve manifestations of insecurity and lawlessness,” it said in a statement.

Chanting slogans in favour of a civilian government, singing and waving Sudanese flags, the mostly young protesters gathered after dusk on Thursday to join the demonstration.

“We’re here to confirm our basic demand for a civilian authority in the transitional period until we can guarantee a real democratic transition,” said Mohamed Hasan, a young protester outside the military headquarters.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement had called for people to gather at the site on Thursday for a “million-strong march.”

“The goals of our revolution will be reached by peacefulness and not by violence,” Wajdi Saleh, a spokesman for the protest group, said as he addressed the crowd.

As they made their way through the capital to the sit-in, they chanted: “Freedom, peace, justice, civil government is the people’s choice!”

Hundreds of women marched through central Khartoum earlier in the day calling for a civilian government.

“The Sudanese women demands justice, equality democracy, a civil government and fair government,” said Hoyam Al Taj, a journalist in her thirties taking part in the march.

Nada Hashem, a young mother in brightly coloured traditional Sudanese dress, agreed.

“We want a civil state that will guarantee our rights as women and guarantee us a dignified life,” she said.

The head of the ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend summits with Arab and Muslim leaders.

He signalled that the military would remain in power during “a short transitional period” that would come to a close with the election of a new government.

A statement from the council said that “several bilateral meetings are planned.”

Authorities also shut down news broadcaster Al Jazeera’s Khartoum office.

Agencies