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Sudan’s military council promises civilian government after Bashir toppled

KHARTOUM,  – Sudan’s ruling military council on Friday promised the country would have a new civilian government, a day after the armed forces overthrew President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power.

The council, which is now running Sudan under Defence Minister Mohammed Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, said it expects a pre-election transition period it announced on Thursday to last two years at most or much less if chaos can be avoided.

The council also announced that it would not extradite Bashir to face allegations of genocide at the international war crimes court. Instead he would go on trial in Sudan.

Friday’s announcement of a civilian government by the head of the military council’s political committee, General Omar Zain al-Abideen, appeared aimed at reassuring demonstrators who took to the streets to warn against imposing army rule after Bashir’s overthrow.

Abideen pledged that the military council would not interfere with the civilian government. However he said the defence and interior ministries would be under the council’s control.

NOT GREEDY FOR POWER

He said the military council had no solutions to Sudan’s crisis and these would come from the protesters.

“We are the protectors of the demands of the people,” he said. “We are not greedy for power.”

Earlier on Friday, thousands of Sudanese demonstrators camped outside the defence ministry to push for a civilian government, defying a curfew and calling for mass prayers.

Demonstrators who have been holding almost daily anti-Bashir protests have rejected the decision to set up a transitional military council and vowed to continue protests until a civilian government is established.

Activists called for mass Friday prayers outside the defence ministry compound, a focal point for protests.

At the compound, large tents were put up and people brought in food and handed out water as the crowd swelled, a Reuters witness said. Ahmed al-Sadek, a 39-year-old trader, said he had not slept at his home since the sit-in began on Saturday.

Activists wearing yellow vests controlled traffic around the compound on Friday morning and managed foot traffic to and from the sit-in, a Reuters witness said. They also blocked a major bridge in central Khartoum.

Bashir, 75, had faced 16 weeks of demonstrations against him.

WORLD POWERS

World powers, including the United States and Britain, said they supported a peaceful and democratic transition sooner than two years.

Ibn Auf is included on Washington’s list of Specially Designated Nationals for his role during the Darfur conflict, meaning all his assets in the U.S. were frozen and Americans were banned from doing business with him, the U.S. embassy said.

Ibn Auf said on Thursday that Bashir was being detained in a “safe place” and a military council – which it was later announced he is heading – would now run the country. Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”.

The political committee will meet political parties and foreign diplomats during the course of Friday, state media reported.

Ibn Auf also announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution. He also said there would be a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

The main organiser of protests against Bashir, the Sudanese Professionals Association, rejected Ibn Auf’s plans. It called on protesters to maintain their sit-in outside the defence ministry.

In a challenge to the military council, several thousand protesters remained in front of the defence ministry compound, and in other parts of the capital, as the curfew went into effect.

They chanted “They removed a thief and brought a thief!” and “Revolution! Revolution!”

Some shops in Omdurman, across the River Nile from central Khartoum, remained open past 10 p.m., a Reuters witness said.

Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and is facing an arrest warrant over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to the death of an estimated 300,000 people. He denies the allegations.

Bashir’s downfall was the second time this month that a leader in the region has been forced out after mass demonstrations. Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999, stepped down on April 2 after six weeks of protests.

By Reuters

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