21 April 2019

Sudan: Talks Stop Amid Demands for Radical Change

Photo: Lana H. Haroun
In what has become an iconic image of the Sudan protests, 22-year-old architectural engineering student Alaa Salah (@oalaa_salah) chants poetry from the top of a car, wearing traditional dress.

Sudanese who have been protesting across the country have vowed to accelerate their demonstrations until a civilian government takes power.

Sunday night at a press conference originally called by the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change to announce a committee to lead transition talks with the country's military rulers, speakers instead broke off negotiations, as crowds chanted, "We don't want Saudi Arabia."

The Saudi's and the United Arab Emirates said earlier Sunday that they were sending Sudan $3 billion worth of aid, following the arrest of former autocratic ruler, President Omar al-Bashir.

The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) and other protestors acted after the ruling military council, which - under pressure from days of 24-hour demonstrations in front of military headquarters by hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people - had met during the days of protest with representatives of the civil society groups. But before the scheduled press conference, a military spokesperson said the council was considering various proposals for a transition to civilian rule, including those of the protestors.

According to numerous live accounts on Twitter from people in the streets, the press conference began with the national anthem, followed by speakers who said they were no longer recognizing the "insincere" military council and would no longer negotiate with its political committee on a compromise transition council of civilian and military representatives. Speakers said they would announce their own transition team within days.

Among the speakers, according to Twitter accounts, was the mother of a protestor killed during September 2013 demonstrations, who had herself been targeted by the regime for speaking up.

The SPA, a diverse alliance of doctors, women, lawyers, youth groups, engineers and trade unions, has captured the imagination of online followers, with their determined focus on forcing change after years of protests. Many observers have reported that the majority of marchers and demonstrators have been women, following a long national tradition of strong women in Sudanese society.

There has been an unusual unity of purpose among the protestors who launched the occupation of the streets earlier this month, often joined by young soldiers. In an early report on the gathering crowds, BBC World News radio reported that crowds were singing about peace. Moments later, the announcer corrected that, saying a better translation revealed that the songs were about 'revolution'.

In interviews, protestors have said the two are indivisible, under the slogan "freedom, peace and justice." As speeches continued late into the evening on Sunday, women and men on the podium called for an inclusive society, where people of all faiths and backgrounds have access to the necessities of life.

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