NAIROBI, Kenya—Sudanese protestors stepped up their demands for military to hand over power to civilians, announcing plans to name an interim ruling council on April 21 to help speed up the transition.
After months of protests in the capital Khartoum, Sudanese protestors attained one of their goals to oust President Hassan Omar al-Bashir on April 11, when he was forced out of power in a military coup, ending his 30-year tenure.
The protests, which started on Dec. 19, 2018, in Atbara, a city located northeast of Khartoum, were sparked by the rising cost of living and fuel and food shortages, and were met with violence, leading to deaths and injuries.
Protests have continued after al-Bashir’s ouster however as demonstrators continue to call for a transition of power from the ruling military council to elected civilian rulers. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a body of professionals that organized the protests, has said they will unveil a civilian ruling body on April 21.
“We are demanding that this civilian council, which has got representatives of the army, replace the military council,” Ahmed al-Rabia, a SPA leader, told AFP.
The United States also is calling for the military to step aside and allow civilians to rule the country. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Makila James has gone to the region to encourage the country’s smooth transition to civilian rule.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that the United States will “calibrate our policies based on our assessment of events,” adding that talks on delisting Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism remain suspended.
She added, however, that the United States is “encouraged by the decision to release political prisoners and cancel the curfew in Khartoum.”
The Sudanese military has maintained that there will be a transition to civilian rule within a two-year period; protestors are opposed to this, saying that wasn’t what they protested for.
“I don’t think this is what the protesters want … they want to elect a new president,” says John Gatluak, a resident of Sudan.
David Kikaya, an international relations expert, says the protests are led by “young educated” Sudanese, and the protestors have stayed away from violence.
Al-Bashir in Prison
Al-Bashir was taken to prison on April 18. According to his relatives, he has been sent to Kobar prison where he is said to have been sending political prisoners when he was the leader. After his fall from power, he was initially confined to the presidential residence.
The Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister Okello Oryem has said that his country would be willing to offer al-Bashir political asylum.
“Uganda would not be apologetic at all for considering an application by Bashir,” Okello told Reuters in Kampala.
This decision could be against Uganda’s international obligations, since Uganda is a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and al-Bashir is wanted by the court on charges related to atrocities in the Darfur region.
According to an Amnesty International report, the former Sudanese leader is one of the longest-running fugitives of the ICC, with two arrest warrants for him having been issued on March 4, 2009, and another on July 12, 2010.
“He stands accused of criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide following the killing, maiming, and torture of hundreds of thousands of people in the Sudanese region of Darfur,” the report said.
The Sudanese military so far has said that it wouldn’t hand over al-Bashir to the ICC.