Saudis, Emiratis attempting to steer uprising, Sudan protesters say

Saudis, Emiratis attempting to steer uprising, Sudan protesters say
Thousands of protesters have held an around-the-clock sit-in since April 6, seeking the military's support in toppling longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and later to remove the generals who seized power.

4 min read
21 May, 2019
Protesters have held sit-ins since April 6 [Anadolu]

Sudan’s protesters have accused regional powers of trying to influence the outcome of their uprising, comparing the attempts to overtake the protests to neighbouring Egypt.

"The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have put pressure on Abdel Fattah al-Burhan because these Gulf states want to implement their political will as they did in Egypt," said Rafeei Ibrahim, an economics graduate, referring to the general who heads the present ruling military council.

Experts say the Saudis, Emiratis and Egyptians have thrown their weight behind Burhan to ensure a military-led governing body is formed.

For some authorities around the region, a possible repeat of the 2011 uprisings that roiled Egypt and the wider Arab world is a frightening prospect.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have already announced a $3-billion aid package to Sudan, which some say will help the generals to keep their grip on the northeast African country.

"We are certain that the street, the sit-in, will win in the negotiations, whether it takes a month, two months or a year," said Ibrahim, carrying a bag on his back.

"We are hopeful, we are millions and we have real ambitions for the future of Sudan," he said as groups of men and women chanted "Freedom, peace, justice" - the catch cry of the protest movement that brought down long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Prior to his ouster, the UAE and Saudi Arabia supported former President Bashir, who sent Sudanese troops to fight in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The two Gulf countries have also thrown their weight behind reactionary military regimes following the Arab Spring. 

They have backed the military coup which overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in 2013 and recently supported rogue Libyan General Khalifa Haftar in his war against the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord.


Flashing the victory sign and chanting revolutionary slogans, Sudanese protesters camped outside the military headquarters are determined to install civilian rule even as talks between their leaders and army generals have faltered.

"Young people have sacrificed themselves to overthrow a 30-year-old regime, and that should be protected," Wafaa al-Tayeb said as she stood among a group of demonstrators spending a yet another night at the sit-in outside the military complex in central Khartoum.

Thousands of men and women have held an around-the-clock sit-in at the site since April 6, initially to seek the military's support in toppling longtime autocrat Bashir and later to remove the generals who seized power after his ouster.

Although the number of protesters has dwindled during the day since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, crowds swell at night when demonstrators gather after breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast.

But more than a month since Bashir was overthrown, their determination and enthusiasm has not waned even though the protest leaders have been unable to reach a deal with the military on forming a new governing body that would replace the generals.

A new round of talks that started late on Sunday faltered last night as a deadlock remained over the make-up of the new body and who should lead it.

"After getting rid of the greatest dictator in Africa, the millions of people here will never accept that the military imposes its rule," Tayeb said.

"Yes or no," she asks the cheering crowd, which immediately voices its approval.

Protester Hind Mohamed said she expects talks with the army generals to last a long time.

"The negotiations will not end in a day. Problems are inevitable. The important thing is that the final agreement meets our expectations," she said.

Failed talks 

Sudanese army rulers and opposition groups representing protesters on Tuesday failed to reach an agreement, yet again, on the make-up of a new ruling body as negotiations hit deadlock on whether a civilian or soldier should preside over it.

The two sides launched a round of new talks late on Sunday over the sovereign council to rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period following last month's ouster of Bashir.

The military council that replaced him has faced international pressure to install a civilian-led administration but a meeting at the presidential palace between the rival factions fell short of reaching a deal late on Monday.

Generals and protest leaders have already agreed on some key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament dominated by lawmakers from the protesters' umbrella group.

The new sovereign council is expected to form a transitional civilian government ahead of the first post-Bashir elections.

But observers say the body may turn out to be only symbolic, with real power resting in the office of the prime minister and the cabinet.

An agreement on the new council's make-up had been expected last week.

But the generals suspended the negotiations for 72 hours, demanding that protesters remove roadblocks they had erected on several Khartoum avenues before any negotiations could proceed.

A government paramilitary force attempted to remove the barricades on Wednesday last week, leading to clashes in which 14 protesters were injured.

Protesters later removed the barricades, but have warned that they will build them again unless the generals transfer power to civilians.

The generals have allowed protesters to continue with their sit-in at the army complex.

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