Sudan’s new military rulers vowed Friday to open a dialogue with all political groups on forming a civilian government as protesters railed against their seizure of power after ousting president Omar al-Bashir. But the military council warned it would tolerate no breaches of security after protesters defied a night-time curfew to keep up a sit-in demanding immediate civilian rule.
The head of the council’s political committee, Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, confirmed that Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years and was one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, remained in custody. But he said the council would never extradite him, or any other Sudanese, despite a longstanding arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes.
Protesters had held mass demonstrations for four months demanding Bashir’s overthrow, defying repeated deadly attempts to crush them by riot police and the feared intelligence services. But when the ouster was finally announced on Thursday in an address to the nation by Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf, it was met not with joy but anger.
Protest leaders dismissed the transitional military council as the “same old faces” from the old regime which had led the country into multiple conflicts and worsening poverty and social inequality. Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything”, said one protester who gave his name only as Adel. “We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir.”
Analysts said that Bashir’s overthrow in a palace coup made the transition to democracy in Sudan a more distant prospect. “Ironically, the prospects for democratic transition may be more remote than when Bashir was in power as there’s no centre of power with which to negotiate,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “The power struggle within the security cabal that took power yesterday is just beginning. Bashir had kept their rivalries and ambitions in check; his removal brings in its wake an unregulated uncertainty.”
– Calls for restraint –
Thousands defied a warning from the miliary council to respect the night-time curfew imposed from 10 pm (2000 GMT) to 4:00 am (0200 GMT), to maintain their vigil outside army headquarters in Khartoum for a sixth straight night. Protesters were seen chatting with soldiers posted outside. They said their quarrel was with the commanders who had led the coup, not the rank and file.