Sudan demonstrators vow to take protests to Europe and US: ‘This is our last chance’

Hundreds of thousands gathered in rallies across Sudan on Thursday demanding the immediate creation of a civilian-led government 

Bel Trew
Middle East Correspondent
Thursday 02 May 2019 19:06
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Sudan's protest movement holds mass rally in Khartoum following last month's overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir

Protesters in Sudan have vowed to take their rallies to embassies across Europe, as hundreds of thousands marched in Khartoum and other parts of the country to demand the military hand over power to civilians.

Three weeks after president Omar al-Bashir was overthrown, demonstrators gathered across the capital and marched to a main sit-in outside the military headquarters.

A coalition of activists led by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said Thursday’s self-styled “Million Man March” was held because talks with Sudan’s military council have reached a deadlock.

Angered at the support countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have given the Sudanese armed forces, protesters told The Independent their next step is to stage rallies at their embassies across Europe and the United States.

In Sudan, they vowed to continue their sit-ins and rallies until a civilian-led sovereign council, tasked with ruling the country until elections are held, is formed.

“Today’s rally is a message to the military council as well as regional and international players that the Sudanese people will not give up on their demand for a civilian government,” said Ahmed Rabie, a leader in the SPA, which led the four months of protests that drove Mr Bashir from power.

Mr Rabie, a member of the protesters’ delegation to the talks, said they proposed an 11-member sovereign council with three seats reserved for the military. The military, however, have demanded they hold the majority, with at least seven seats.

In the latest attempt to break the stalemate, a committee of public figures has been formed to mediate future talks. “The members of this committee are all patriotic public figures... however, they are not authorised to sign off on any deal on our behalf,” Mr Rabie said.

Sudan is currently ruled by a military junta led by lieutenant general Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, after armed forces pushed Mr Bashir from office on 11 April following months of protests against his 30-year rule. The former leader has since been jailed alongside other former senior officials.

In Khartoum, Waem Shawgi, a 28-year-old businesswomen and women’s rights activist, told The Independent people were distrustful of the military, fearing the very generals who helped end Mr Bashir’s reign would want to hold onto power or cut deals with remnants of the former president’s regime.

The protests in and out of Sudan are crucial, the military will do anything in its power to try to push protesters to accept half a victory

Mohamed Abubakr, Sudanese activist and president of the Washington-based African Middle Eastern Leadership Project

She said protests both in Sudan and abroad were the “last chance” they had to ensure a transition to a civilian government.

Earlier this week, the military demanded that demonstrators clear roadblocks around their main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Protesters responded by building more barricades.

“We cannot trust the military who were behind such an authoritarian regime for 30 years,” she said from within the Sudanese capital.

“If we go back home now we will have lost all the power, all the blood loss in the street will have been for nothing.

“This is our last chance. We do not have anything to lose,” she added.

Mohamed Abubakr, a Sudanese activist and president of the Washington-based African Middle Eastern Leadership Project said protests were planned this week at the Egyptian, Saudi and Emirati embassies in Washington and cities across Europe, against the military’s “interference” in the transitional process.

He said many protesters were particularly concerned by Gulf support of newly-appointed vice president Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan.

This is our last chance. We do not have anything to lose

Waem Shawgi, Sudanese women’s right activist 

Hamdan, who is known by his nickname Hemeti, is the head of paramilitary group the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which rights organisations have accused of violating international human rights and humanitarian law in the long-embattled region of Darfur. Hundreds of RSF fighters have also died fighting for a Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.

“The protesters are asking these countries to stop meddling in Sudan’s business, as they have been heavily invested in promoting Hemeti,” Mr Abubakr said.

“The protests in and out of Sudan are crucial, the military will do anything in its power to try to push protesters to accept half a victory,” he added

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