Sudan: Transition Falls Short of Expectations

Demonstrations in Sudan that led to the ousting of long time leader Omar Al-Bashir.

In former defence minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf and now head of the transition council which ousted President Omar al-Bashir Thursday, Sudan is between a rock and a hard place.

Soon after the protests organised by the Sudanese Professionals Association began six days ago, Mr Bashir intimated to his inner circle that should he step down, Mr Auf was his choice for a successor.

PROLONGED TENSION

So when Mr Auf appeared on state television Thursday to announce that the military had taken power for two years, had suspended the constitution and declared an emergency for three months, it was hardly what the protesters had bargained for. It signalled prolonged tension.

Despite cheering the ouster of Bashir, 'The High Council of Armed Forces' fell short of the demand for a civilian transition government which protesters, stung by three decades of worsening economy and authoritarian rule, had called for.

"The military takeover has recycled the same faces and the same people are in charge. People should not stop protesting," the association said in a statement on Twitter issued together with other opposition groups. The association called on people to remain at the sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

It is not just the Sudan people that are likely to be dismayed with the transition. Among Mr Auf's opening statements was that Bashir had been arrested and was in a safe place in Khartoum. The protests had offered hope to the international community that Bashir, for whom warrants of arrest have been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over genocide and crimes and against humanity in Darfur, would be brought to account.

NEW ERA

The new man at the helm, however, is unlikely to let this happen as he faces a similar predicament. A long serving deputy to al-Bashir, Auf, 65, is among individuals sanctioned by the US over the Darfur ethnic conflict. The US accuses him of having been the link between the government and the Janjaweed militias.

A UN mission in 2005 listed him among those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Darfur after which the US blocked his assets in May 2007. He was then the head of military intelligence and security. During his tenure as defence minister the Sudanese army has reportedly improved its artillery and rocket system.

Few see him handing over power to a civilian government after the promised two years of transition.

Another ball up in the air for the international community is the revitalised peace process of South Sudan where Bashir was the facilitator and deal broker. Already, there are fears in Juba that the peace deal could falter with Bashir out of the scene.

"Juba puts activities on halt over Sudan's crisis," South Sudan cabinet minister Dr Elia Lomoro commented on Bashir exit. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar were last night expected to renew commitments to the peace process after a two day retreat in the Vatican.

Bashir was forced out of power by a popular uprising that started on 19 December 19, last year. It was not until this week, however, that the army turned against Bashir pointing to inherent divisions.

MILITARY TRANSITION

Mr Auf announced Thursday two years of military rule 'with representation of the people.' The divisions in the army could play out in the composition of the military transition council which was not announced.

Expected to be in the inner circle are army chief of staff Kamal Abdel Marouf, National Intelligence and security services chief Salah Gosh who negotiated with Bashir the terms of his stepping down.

A big elephant in the room is former Commander in Chief General Mustafa Osman Obied who was sacked by Bashir for protesting the integration of a militia group known as Rapid Defense Forces which was fighting in Darfur and was loyal to Bashir.

He enjoys sectional support in the uniformed forces, especially the navy where he was commander. When he visited the army headquarters on Tuesday, he was mobbed by soldiers who had protected civilians from the crackdown by NISS.

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