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Sudan: the Generals tighten their grip

By Patrick Smith, in Khartoum
Posted on Wednesday, 8 May 2019 18:17

A mural is seen on a wall near the defence ministry compound in Khartoum, Sudan REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Sit-in organisers to launch civil disobedience campaign unless military speeds negotiations

A month after mass protests led to the ousting of President Omer Hassan el-Bashir, the stand-off between civilian protestors and the ruling generals is escalating dangerously.

Activists at the mass sit-in around Alqiyada al Amaah, the military headquarters in Khartoum, are prepared to back their demands for civil rule with a general strike, the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) forces told journalists today (8 May).

Negotiate or face the streets

“The Transitional Military Council should sit with the representatives of the Revolution or they should face the street,” said Khalid Omer, Secretary General of the Sudan Congress Party, a member of the DFC’s protest alliance.

  • The ruling generals should were showing “…a lack of seriousness” in negotiations, he added.
  • The TMC is yet to give a detailed response to proposals for a transfer to civil rule submitted over a week ago.

“We call and prepare for civil disobedience,” said Madani Abbas Madani at the press conference at the Bankers’ Union building next to the sit-in.

  • Under the latest deadline from the African Union, the ruling generals have 60 days to agree a handover of power to a civilian administration.

It was up to the military to respond more speedily and to join direct negotiations on the structure of a new government, said Omer.

  • Instead, he said they have been organising political theatre, “… talking to the media about questions that are not even on the negotiating table.”

The military courts the media

Lieutenant General Shamsudeen al Kabbashi, spokesman for the TMC, insisted that “…the military don’t want to run this country” when he addressed a late night press conference at the Presidential Palace on 7 May.

Appealing over the heads of its formal negotiating partners in the DFCF, Al Kabbashi said they may have to organise elections within six months to break the deadlock. He also rejected the protestors’ calls for a four-year transition period, arguing that it could be no longer than two years.

  • “We have to dismantle the deep state together but it may take decades….” Al Kabbashi added ominously.That statement seen as a bid to win over the skeptical local media.

Human rights investigators could be welcomed

Lt Gen al Kabbashi also told The Africa Report that the military would be prepared to allow representatives from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to investigate charges of mass human rights abuses by the former regime. “Yes, we can do that, Insh’allah.”

Under Omer Hassan Al Bashir’s regime, efforts by independent international investigators to examine claims of widespread extra-judicial killings and torture of activists were resolutely obstructed.

  • Al Bashir is being held in the Kober maximum security prison where he detained so many of his opponents.
  • So far, the junta has charged Al Bashir only with corruption offences not with responsibility for the mass killings in Darfur or Nuba Mountains.

Military power remains dividing issue

Lt Gen Al Kabbashi insisted that the military would continue to have the sole power to run the armed forces and the intelligence apparatus under the new political arrangements.

The battle for control of the reform and restructuring of Sudan’s hydra-headed security forces is far from settled, according to sources close to the mediation committee, led by business people and professionals, trying to speed up negotiations between the military and civilians.

  • They suggest control could come under a national security council on which the military would have the majority of seats alongside a civilian prime minister, foreign and finance ministers.
  • Others suggest negotiations are complicated by the rivalry between the Sudan Armed Forces, about 180,000-strong, the Rapid Support Forces with about a third of that number but better paid and equipped, and the National Intelligence and Security Services which has its own armed units and quasi-commercial investments in corporate entities, banks and mining operations.

Sharia Law off the table

Later in the press conference in the Chinese-built Presidential Palace, Lt Gen Al Kabbashi questioned the civilians’ silence on Sharia law. The military believed that “Islamic Sharia and local traditions in Sudan should be the sources of legislation.”

But Sharia is not a point at issue in the current negotiations, said Omer.

  • “We are discussing the powers and authority of the three levels of government, the sovereign council, the council of ministers and the legislative council,” said Omer.
  • “We’re far from talking about the content of the constitution … Sharia, the language of the power of the state… those are ideological weapons used by the former regime to divide people.”

Foreign meddlers and regional dynamics in the transition

Asked about foreign interference in Sudan’s transition, Amjad Farid, spokesman of the Sudan Professionals’ Association said: “We are looking for a Sudanese process and we think this is the only way…. We are part of the region but we want stay out of the regional dynamics for now.”

  • On whether the offer of $3.5 billion of aid from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to Sudan was an attempt to prop up the military, he added: “There is an economic crisis here. We are happy to receive any aid as long as its unconditional.”

Bottom line: Without a return to constructive negotiations between the civilians and the generals, Sudan’s revolution could spin out of control

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