Sudan pro-democracy alliance rejects military role as Arab League team arrives

Negotiators went to Khartoum on Sunday but ousted civilian officials say talks with the army are in ‘semi-deadlock’

Sudan’s main pro-prodemocracy group has rejected a return to power-sharing with the military, saying it will maintain its peaceful resistance to force the generals behind the October 25 coup to stand aside and face prosecution.

The “political declaration” from the Sudanese Professionals Association on Sunday said it sought a civilian government of technocrats led by an “independent national figure”.

It also wants the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces be disbanded, the armed forces restructured and the domestic security agency shut.

The two-page, 13-point document appears to reject ongoing mediation efforts undertaken by regional and world powers, dimming hopes for a quick resolution to the crisis gripping Sudan more than two years after autocrat Omar Al Bashir’s 29-year regime was overthrown.

The blueprint proposes a 20-member Cabinet of non-party members with a four-year mandate alongside a ceremonial sovereign council of five civilian members, and the creation of an assembly within two months that sits until elections are held.

Protests followed the military take over of Sudan - in pictures

If adopted by the SPA grassroots, the plan would replace the power-sharing deal reached in August 2019 between the military and civilians, the document says.

Significantly, the blueprint makes no mention of Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister of the civilian-led government removed in the coup last month.

The document was released hours before state TV reported that army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan had met a delegation from the Arab League. The regional body has called for parties to stick to the democratic transition agreed in 2019.

Sources in the removed administration told Reuters on Saturday that talks with the military were in “semi-deadlock” because the army refuses to return to a democratic transition. It came days after hopes of a breakthrough were raised by the military’s release of four of Mr Hamdok’s ministers. The army has continued to arrest officials, activists, union leaders and journalists.

Gen Al Burhan toppled the military-civilian transitional administration in which he was the top soldier with de facto presidential powers. He declared an indefinite state of emergency, detained several cabinet members and suspended a state commission formed to dismantle the remnants of Al Bashir’s rule.

He also promised free elections in 2023 and declared the military the guardian and protector of the transition to democratic rule.

Gen Al Burhan’s takeover has prompted near-daily street protests at home while the international community has condemned the move. The US and the World Bank are among powers that have suspended aid.

At least 12 people have been killed and about 300 injured in the streets protests since the coup.

Late on Saturday, state television said the directors of five state banks had been replaced. On Friday, the military dissolved the boards of state companies.

It has also tightened restrictions on Mr Hamdok, who has been under house arrest since the coup, curtailing his freedom to contact mediators and supporters.

Several government officials who opposed military rule have been sacked and replaced by top bureaucrats forced to retire over their close links to Al Bashir’s regime.

The military has also detained strike organisers and trade union leaders, and placed the state television, radio and news agency under its control.

A two-day campaign of civil disobedience began on Sunday, attracting a modest response. Residents told Reuters that owing to ongoing internet cuts, many had not heard the call for action.

Unlike the closed shops, traffic-free streets and mass rallies in the days after October 25, central Khartoum was packed with traffic on Sunday as most banks reopened. Many stores were open, too.

The renowned Al Araby market near the downtown area was also back in business, with hundreds of shoppers thronging its streets.

While the University of Khartoum’s faculty has decided to suspend classes indefinitely to protest the coup, schools reopened on Sunday for the first time in nearly two weeks. Activists, however, reinforced street barricades overnight to prevent vehicles from entering or leaving their neighbourhoods.

An anti-coup protest held by teachers as part of the civil disobedience campaign was met with tear gas from security forces. Many of the teachers carried banners reading “no, no to military rule” and slogans demanding a transition to “full civilian rule” at a rally outside the education ministry in Khartoum.

“We organised a silent stand against the decisions by [Gen Al] Burhan outside the Education Ministry,” said Mohamed Al Amin, a geography teacher who took part in that protest. “Police later came and fired tear gas at us though we were simply standing on the streets and carrying banners,” he said.

There were no confirmed reports of casualties but the SPA said about 87 teachers had been detained.

- Additional reporting by AFP

Updated: November 7th 2021, 5:14 PM
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