Protesters in Sudan are demanding a civilian government after the country’s defence minister resigned just 24 hours after he was sworn as interim leader following a military coup.
General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, who led the movement to overthrow former president Omar al-Bashir after months of bloody protests against his repressive 30-year rule, stepped down on Friday to “preserve unity” within the armed forces.
In a speech broadcast on state television, he named Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan as his successor, whose “experience, skills and eligibility” he said made him the right person to “steer this ship that has sailed to safety.”
Jubilant anti-regime protesters raised flags and peace signs outside the army headquarters in Khartoum and chanted “the second has fallen” after news broke of Mr Ibn Auf’s departure.
However, the move did little to appease protesters who have continued to demonstrate outside government buildings in Khartoum as they call for democratic reform following President Bashir’s ousting.
On Saturday demonstrators pushing for faster political change vowed to remain on the streets despite at least 16 people being shot dead at demonstrations on Thursday and Friday.
“We call on the armed forces to ensure the immediate transfer of power to a transitional civilian government,” said the Sudan Professionals Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the demonstrations.
It added in a statement: “Today, we continue the march to finish the victory for our victorious revolution.
“We assert that our revolution is continuing and will not retreat or deviate from its path until we achieve ... our people’s legitimate demands of handing over power to a civilian government.”
Protest leaders rejected the new authority’s plan for a two-year “transitional period” over concerns that the armed forces were attempting what has become known in the Arab world as the “Egyptian scenario”, in which the military ousts an unpopular president only to replace them with another from their own ranks.
Demonstrators have called for the abolition of “arbitrary decisions by leaders that do not represent the people” and the detention of “all symbols of the former regime who were involved in crimes against the people”.
Mr Ibn Auf was a particularly controversial pick for the Sudan’s presidency. He has been on the US sanctions list since 2007 for links to war crimes during the country’s Darfur war. In 2007, his assets were blocked by the US treasury and he was indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide following conflict in which 200,000 people were killed.
SPA spokesperson Rashid Saeed said Mr Ibn Auf’s decision to make way was “a step in the right direction” and “a bow to the will of the masses”. He added: “We have become closer to victory.”
Sudan’s deputy UN ambassador, Yasir Abdalla Abdelsalam Ahmed, called for patience over the democratic process in his country and urged the international community to support a peaceful transition.
“No party will be excluded from the political process, including armed groups,” he told the UN Security Council during a meeting in Abyei on Friday.
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