Sudanese Are Determined Not to Let Go of Their Destiny to Yet Another Dictator

Donald Booth, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia speaks during a welcome reception for "African Leadership for Child Survival" held at Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Sudan civil society activist Hassan Abdelati spoke to FRED OLUOCH on the situation in their country, challenges and the way forward.

President Omar al-Bashir is gone but the people who were the power behind him for the past 30 years still hold positions of influence. What are the protesters planning to do about this?

The objectives of the revolution are yet to be achieved. The main one was that the whole government comprise of civilians, but we are still far from that.

The first option is civil disobedience. Right now nothing is functional in Khartoum because there are road blocks everywhere and people are demonstrating in the residential areas, but ultimately, there are plans to declare a civilian government and seek recognition from the international community.

Second, some mediation is welcome, such as the planned visit by the African Union. But the citizens will continue with civil disobedience until the culprits are charged following the killing of 31 Sudanese on June 3, the 161 seriously injured and the hundreds missing.

The head of the Transitional Military Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has accused the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change of prolonging the negotiations on a power handover by attempting to exclude other political and military forces. Comment?

Definitely al-Burhan is not the right man for the job. These people are not trustworthy. They invite people for discussions and change within 24 hours. They are promoting violence. They are blocking people on the streets and shooting everywhere. It looks like they are hoping to make it a coup d'etat.

Since taking over, the military council declared that it will involve all the people, but it is yet to do that. We have sent them a draft agreement but they have not responded. The armed invasion of the area occupied by the protesters, proves that part of the council does not foresee or hope for any agreement with civilians.

Will the council organise polls in nine months as promised by Al-Burhan?

They can but it will be a sham election. We need a census that will allow the delineation of new constituencies, there must be resettlement of more than three million people who have been displaced from their homes all over the country; we need a new electoral law an and a new constitution. These are impossible to deliver within the next nine months.

The junta has shown that it is ready to shoot protesters, what is the remedy?

We are advising our people to avoid any form of violence. But the military is not bound by civilian law and has no rules of engagement with the civilians. Since we have the police, why bring the army onto the streets to deal with civilian protesters? The international community should volunteer to record such behaviour. We hope the AU will order investigations into the killings.

Why are the armed groups in the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan such as SPLM-N and JEM not included in the discussion for the transition?

The people of Southern Kordofan have made it clear through Al-Hilu that they support the revolution but will not join the unity government unless there is a peace agreement. The same applied to Abdel Wahed Nur of Darfur. The people of Blue Nile through Yasser Arman -- who is in the country -- are part and parcel of the Forces for Freedom and Change.

Is it possible to get rid of all Bashir cronies and overhaul the system?

It is possible but it will take time since they are there in every institution. That is why the people are talking about transitional period of four years. To clean the system will definitely take time.

Is the caretaker government capable of bringing those involved in corruption and crimes against humanity to account?

This can only happen under a civilian government. But we believe that the international community and the African Union have a big role to play. This especially with the current leader of the council and what he has been doing for the last seven months.

The junta has said they will not surrender Mr Bashir to the ICC. Would the opposition hand him over should they gain power?

He should be tried in the country. The international community can bring in observers, because at The Hague he will be more comfortable than in Sudan. The trial process has already started.

It appears there is no clear leader that the people can rally around. Why is it taking too long to name one?

This is because it is a coalition of five groups and they do not want to play their hand so early, but definitely they have agreed on the name of the prime minister and the people in the governing council and they are just waiting for the agreement to be signed to announce the names.

Do the protesters have a common ideology or they were just united by their common dislike for Bashir?

The people have become even more united especially after the June 3 killings. Earlier, there were differences between the rightists and the leftists but the killings changed all that.

The protest was sparked off by hard economic times. How do the protesters plan to revive the economy should they ascend to power?

That depends on a number of measures such as stopping corruption, asking the international community for debt relief; people are going to organise for funds for the transitional period. There are also plans to revive Sudan Airways to employ more people and bring income. We also have to introduce planning and management of resources. We do not lack resources but sound management of the same.

Sudan has been ruled by people with military background for very long. Do you think the concept of democracy is widespread among the people?

Yes. Three revolutions in one country has never happened anywhere in the world. There have also been many attempts that did not come to the public and I do not remember a time when people have not resisted military rule between the time of Jaafar Nimeiri and Bashir. Since 1963, Sudanese have resisted military rule usually supported by one or other country in the Gulf.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was first published in The EastAfrican print edition on June 8, 2019, days before protest leaders called off a campaign of civil disobedience and agreed to talks with military rulers.

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