Sudan vice-president says army won't let country 'slide into chaos'

Sudan vice-president says army won't let country 'slide into chaos'
Sudan's defence minister and vice president on Monday night said the army would not allow chaos to unfold in the country
4 min read
08 April, 2019
Ibn Auf was named vice president by Bashir in February [AFP]
Sudan's vice president on Monday night said that the army would remain a "safety valve" for the Sudanese people, hinting that it could intervene against state security forces.

Defence minister, chief of staff and vice-president Awad ibn Auf told senior leaders in the armed forces that the military would not "allow the country to slide into chaos", reported state news agency SUNA.

Ibn Auf claimed that "the armed forces appreciate the cause of the protests", which have been ongoing since mid-December, but intensified on Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters began staging a sit-in outside the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum.

Protesters are calling for the army to step in and ensure the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, and the formation of a transitional government.

The sit-in has now been ongoing for three days.

"History will not forgive its leaders if they overreach in their security [measures]," said Ibn Auf in a pointed statement, although he did not name Bashir.
He added that the army was not "against the aspirations and ambitions" of the protesters, and it "will not allow the country to slide into chaos".

However, the vice president warned protesters: "The army will not tolerate any protester who disrupts security."

Sudan's interior minister also acknowledged on Monday evening that seven protesters have been killed and thousands detained following a crackdown since protests in the capital intensified on Saturday.

Khartoum said that 2,496 protesters had been detained on Saturday alone, as demonstrations were held outside the army headquarter's - viewed as the centre of power in Sudan.

"While the demonstrations were being dispersed seven citizens died, six of them in Khartoum state and one in Central Darfur," interior minister Bushara Juma told parliament on Monday, without explicitly acknowledging how the protesters had died.

Four men were killed by the security services during the ongoing sit-in outside the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum on Sunday morning, the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said on Sunday.

A man was killed in Omdurman and a woman in Central Darfur on Saturday, the CCSD said in the same statement.

Later on Sunday, the doctors' committee announced the killing of a man in al-Obeid, southwestern Sudan.

A soldier was killed while defending protesters at the Khartoum sit-in, and a man was killed by the security services elsewhere in Khartoum, the CCSD added in a Monday statement.

Soldier Sami Sheikh al-Deen appears not to have been included in the regime's updated count of the dead.

Juma's remarks are the first time in months that President Omar al-Bashir's regime has acknowledged the deaths of protesters.

Until Monday, a regime tally of deaths since mid-December had stood frozen at 30 people for at least two months, while the regime now says 38 people have died.

A tally of deaths recorded by activists on the ground now stands at 69.

An additional 15 civilians and 42 members of the security services were wounded on Saturday, Juma added, again not clarifying how the civilians or security service personnel had been injured.

The interior minister also claimed that just 10,000 protesters had rallied in front of the military headquarters on Saturday, according to AFP, flying in the face of eyewitness reports which say hundreds of thousands of people continue to gather, and increase in number, in front of the General Command.

More than 2,000 people were arrested by Sudan's security forces on Saturday alone, Juma claimed.

As the security forces only had access to the protesters staging a sit-in in front of the army headquarters for an hour or two overnight on Saturday, it is likely that the majority of those arrests took place in other neighbourhoods of Khartoum, where activists had reported the heavy presence of security services, and in other towns and cities.

He also claimed that six police vehicles had been destroyed in Khartoum.

A protest march from various neighbourhoods of the capital towards the General Command on Saturday - planned to coincide with the anniversary of Sudan's 6 April Revolution, when mass protests led to the ousting of President Gaafar Nimeiri, who seized power in a 1969 military coup - soon turned into the largest in the country's most recent uprising.

Thousands of Sudanese converged on the army headquarters to call on the military to stand with them against Bashir's regime

Despite repeated attempts by the security forces to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and rubber and live bullets, the sit-in has continued unabated for three straight days.

Demonstrators have been protesting against Bashir since mid-December.