22 April 2019

Sudan Tensions Escalate After Talks Break Down

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.

Sudan's ruling military council is calling for protesters' roadblocks to be removed. Protest leaders are demanding a transfer of power to a civilian administration.

The council, which has ruled Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir was forced from office, ordered protesters to dismantle their barricades outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on Monday.

Tensions between Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the protest leaders, known as the Sudanese Professionals Association, are rising after talks between the two sides broke down on Sunday, weeks after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir on April 11.

The protest leaders have been demanding a swift turnover of power to civilians, and are now calling for escalating and continuing demonstrations until their demands are met. Large crowds of protesters remained outside the Khartoum military complex overnight, singing and chanting.

Military insists security 'responsibility of state'

The military council requested the road blockades be removed due to concern for the safety and security of citizens. "The roads have to be opened immediately to facilitate the movement of trains, and all means of transport in the capital and other states so as to help movement of essential items," it said in a statement.

The council, which is headed by General Fattah al-Burhan, also said it was not acceptable that some young protesters were performing security searches on those joining the sit-in. "It can't continue like this because security is the responsibility of the state," al-Burhan said.

Protesters vow to double down

The protesters, who have been rallying outside the military headquarters since April 6, have accused the military of being simply an extension of Omar al-Bashir's regime.

"The military council is delaying its response to our proposals, saying that they are considering proposals from all political forces," Mohammed al-Amin Abdel Aziz, a spokesperson for the protest leaders, said.

Al-Burhan promised on Sunday to respond to demonstrators' demands within a week.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led four months of protests to end al-Bashir's 30-year reign, fears the military -- which is still dominated by the ex-president's appointees -- will cling to power or appoint another general. The army initially said it would rule for up to two years while elections were organized.

Initially, protests were prompted by rising food prices but quickly morphed into a sustained challenge against al-Bashir's leadership. A week before the military coup earlier this month, tens of thousands of protesters staged a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, which also houses al-Bashir's residence.

(AFP, Reuters, AP)

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