Sudan’s military triumvirate takes over and arrests Omar al-Bashir
Activists organise more protests against the ruling generals after pausing to celebrate Bashir’s downfall
Hundreds of thousands of protestors defied the new military regime’s curfew on the night of 11 April as they gathered in the capital and other cities to demand a political transition led by civilians.
It is a clear sign that the new military triumvirate led by First Vice President and Defence Minister Lieutenant General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, National Intelligence and Security Service chief Gen. Salah Abdullah Gosh and leader of the Rapid Support Forces Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, also known as as ‘Hemeti’, is unacceptable to the opposition.
Triumvirate of tyranny
All three have been linked to serial human rights abuses linked to the mass killings in Darfur, west Sudan and other centres of opposition.
- Lt Gen. Awad Ibn Auf is under United States sanctions.
- Hemeti organised the pro-regime Janjaweed militias in Darfur.
- Gosh, who gave intelligence on jihadi groups hosted by the ruling Islamist cabal to western spy agencies in exchange for diplomatic privileges, ordered his security officers to shoot protestors outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on 7 and 8 April.
At dawn on 11 April, reports flashed across Sudan’s cities that Omar al Bashir, the leader of one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, had been ousted by the military. Drivers honked their horns and passengers waved Sudanese flags, their red, green, black and white colours flapping in the wind. Pedestrians clapped and shook hands with strangers; some kissed soldiers on their foreheads.
Cries of joy erupted from the activists camped outside the Alqiyida al Amaah military headquarters since 6 April as word spread that the army would be making a statement about a new government. But after six hours of delay, a hesitant and contradictory statement from First Vice President and Defence Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf on state television, sitting aloft a golden chair, dampened the celebrations.
After a show of affability towards the young protestors, Lt Gen. Awad Ibn Auf said that the new ruling military council would impose a curfew from 22.00 to 04.00 each day, extend the state of emergency for three months, and hold power for two years in which it would organise a political transition.
The national assembly would be shut down as would provincial governments. “We hope that citizens will bear the responsibility with us and bear with some tightened security measures as they take part in the security and safety of the nation,” he added.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Dalia el Roubi of the Sudan Congress Party, an independent secularist party, told The Africa Report a few minutes after the announcement. “We are fighting for a transition led by a civilian authority. The sit-in will continue…”
The Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the coalition of civic and professional groups with opposition political parties, formed a council on 8 April to manage a a political handover from the military after al-Bashir’s exit.
- It has been leading the sit-in outside the military headquarters since 6 April, which brought together over a million peaceful protestors, finally prompting the generals to oust al-Bashir.
“We believe that there are those in the military who would back that kind of civilian transition,” Sara Abdejalil of the Sudan Professionals Association told the BBC in London. That was the model established in 1985 when the military overthrew the autocratic regime of Jaffar el-Nimeiri and then, with civilian technocrats, organised credible elections.
The struggle continues
More than 70 people have been killed in protests since last December and 2,600 arrested, according to rights groups. But activists in towns and cities across Sudan are braced for more protests.
- In Port Sudan and Kassala, in the east of the country, protesters attacked the offices of the National Intelligence and Security Service. After Ibn Auf’s announcement, oppositionists started chanting in Khartoum and other cities “We will not replace a Kooz (a derogatory term for an Islamist) with another Kooz.”
The Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change dismissed Awad Ibn Auf’s plan as an “internal military coup” and there are fears the new regime could quickly resume violent repression if the protests continue.
“Sudan’s military authorities should ensure that emergency laws are not used to undermine people’s rights. Instead, they must now consign to history the assault on human rights that marked al-Bashir’s 30 years in power,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.
Western states in the so-called Troika – Britain, Norway and the United States – urged the new regime to open discussions with civilian political groups about the transition. But they are unclear about whether they will recognise the junta or want it to hand over indicted officials such as Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court.
There has been a deafening silence from al-Bashir’s other backers and arms suppliers in Beijing, Moscow, and Ankara. Egypt, which was the first government to recognise the new junta, seems to have had advance warning of the move by the Sudanese generals.
- Last month Lt. Gen. Awad Ibn Auf, who was a classmate of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s at the Cairo military academy, was in the Egyptian capital ostensibly for consultations on regional security.
- The rush by al-Sisi, who is the current chairman of the African Union, to confer legitimacy on Khartoum’s new junta contradicts the continental organisation’s strictures against military coups.
Without directly criticising the Egyptian government’s calls for other countries to recognise the new junta, AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat stated: “The military take-over is not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people.”
- Drawing on the AUC’s rules on military takeovers, Faki Mahamat appealed to: “…all stakeholders to engage in an inclusive dialogue to create the conditions that will make it possible to meet the aspirations of the Sudanese people to democracy, good governance and well-being and restore constitutional order as soon as possible.”
Late on 11 April, the Sudan Consortium and the Civil Forces Assembly, which groups civic activists from Sudan and African states, urged Faki Mahamat and the AU Commission to use a meeting of its Peace and Security Commission scheduled for Friday 12 April to suspend Sudan’s membership and impose sanctions on the ruling generals, because such measures are set out in the continental body’s constitution.
Bottom line: The stage is set for a policy battle between al-Sisi and Faki Mahamat at the heart of the AU.