Sudan protest leaders demand civilian government, security service overhaul during meeting with military council

Sudan protest leaders demand civilian government, security service overhaul during meeting with military council
Leading Sudanese protest organisers on Saturday met with the transitional military council now governing the country to present their demands, including the involvement of civilians in the transitional period.
4 min read
14 April, 2019
The organisers' meeting with the military council has been criticised by demonstrators [AFP]

Protest organisers on Saturday presented their demands to Sudan's new military rulers, which includes the immediate creation of a civilian government and end to martial rule.

Former president Omar al-Bashir was forced out of office on Thursday after months of popular peaceful protests. Bashir had ruled Sudan for almost 30 years.

Sudan's military, the historic power broker in the country which has now witnessed five military coups over the past five decades, declared it had taken over governance shortly after and would continue to rule through a transitional military council for the next two years before handing over power to a civilian-led government.

Protesters, who continue to gather in a mass sit-in outside of the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum, as well as in sit-in and protests in cities across Sudan, have called for a swift end to military rule and a civilian-led transitional government process.

The chief of the military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Saturday vowed to dismantle Bashir's regime.

Burhan also promised that those implicated in killing protesters would face justice and that protesters detained under emergency law would be freed.

Burhan became chief of the military council on Friday after his predecessor General Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down, just a day after the toppling of Bashir.

A ten-member delegation from the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) met with the military council late on Saturday. The Sudanese Professionals Associations (SPA), the lead organiser of protests against the Sudanese regime since mid-December, is the main constituent of the AFC.

Read more: 'A portal into tomorrow's Sudan': Inside the sit-in that brought down Sudan's dictator Bashir

Nine primary demands were presented in the first meeting between the AFC, representing the protesters, and the military council.

The alliance demanded that the transitional council include  civilian as well as military members, the formation of a fully civilian government to address day-to-day matters, and the restructuring of the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) - responsible for the killing of protesters over the past few months.

The AFC also requested that Burhan revoke any laws curtailing freedoms and release a group of students from Darfur who were arrested on terrorism charges in December. It has also called for properties belonging to the Bashir's National Congress Party become public property and for state media outlets to broadcast "revolutionary" news and slogans.

Finally, the alliance has said that the sit-in outside of the military headquarters will continue until their demands are met.

The demands of the AFC have prompted criticism of the SPA and the AFC among protesters and activists on social media.

"Hey Alliance for Freedom and Change, we didn't make this sacrifice so you could go 'negotiate,'" announced an unnamed woman in an impassioned speech at the Khartoum sit-in published as a video on social media.

"You are our spokespeople. You speak on our behalf with what we the people want you to say, and what's written on the Declaration for Freedom and Change. We are the power that overthrew the president. And if need be, we will overthrow his opposition."

The Declaration of Freedom and Change, signed by the SPA, opposition political parties and other opposition organisations, was published in January.

It called for the formation of a transitional government formed of technocrats from across Sudan. This government would work over four years to "dismantle the structure of governance set up by a totalitarian one-party regime", form an independent judicial system and a state based on the rule of law, and end the country's civil wars, among other goals.

The declaration also called for the prosecution of "perpetrators of crimes against the Sudanese people".

The call to restructure the NISS has also prompted anger from some who believe the security services should be dismantled completely and fear that restructuring will not lead to real change.

This anger was further stoked by the alliance's failure to address Salah Gosh, the former chief of the NISS who resigned on Saturday. Many protesters have called for his arrest.

The AFC reaffirmed its commitment to the goals outlined in the Declaration for Freedom and Change, in a statement published on Saturday night by the SPA.

It promised to work for the detention and prosecution of the leaders of the NISS and the "corrupt leaders" of other regime institutions, the military and regime-linked militias responsible for "crimes against citizens".

The AFC also pledged its commitment to dismantling regime-linked militias, which are linked to alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the conflict areas of Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile, among other promises.

"Once again we reaffirm the demands of the revolution, and there is no way to accept promises without actions," stated the AFC.

Sara, a 31-year-old architect, told The New Arab: "We will continue in the sit-in until our demands are met."