Sudan’s new army rulers yesterday ordered protesters to dismantle their barricades on roads leading to the military headquarters as tensions grew after talks between the two sides broke down.
The demand to reopen roads came a day after rally leaders suspended talks with the 10-member military council, frustrated at a lack of headway over their main demand for an immediate transfer of power to a civilian administration.
The demonstrators have accused the ruling military council of being little different from veteran leader Omar al-Bashir who was toppled by the army on April 11 following months of street protests.
Protest leaders also vowed to intensify demonstrations that erupted in December until their demands are met.
But yesterday night the military council tried to ease the tensions, saying the demands made by the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protest movement, were being examined.
“The alliance has presented its proposal...which is now being studied along with the visions of other political forces,” council spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi told reporters.
He said the council “will communicate with everyone to reach a middle ground”. Neighbouring Egypt meanwhile announced it will host an emergency summit of African leaders today on “the evolution of the situation” in Sudan.
And yesterday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held talks in Cairo with Abu Bakr Mustafa, the new head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) — a much feared organ during Bashir’s long tenure.
After the meeting, Sisi praised the “efforts” of Sudan’s military council, his office said.
Protesters vowed to remain at the makeshift barricades they have set up on roads leading to the main protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum, to frisk people coming to the rally.
“Sit-in will continue until the fall of the regime,” a huge banner on a bridge at the protest site read yesterday.
Fai Othman, a protester, vowed to resist the military council’s order to remove blockades, stressing they had been erected to protect demonstrators.
“There’s no guarantee that the military council would provide security for the protesters,” she said.
“No military man can be trusted.”
The protest leaders had pledged to name members of a civilian body on Sunday to take over from the military council, but by nightfall it was clear it would not happen.
“We are suspending our talks with the military council,” spokesman Mohamed al-Amin told the tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the army complex.
“We call for escalating and continuing the demonstrations until the demands are met,” he said. Protesters have massed outside the army complex since April 6.
But initial jubilation at the end of Bashir’s three decades of rule quickly turned to anger over the military council’s plan to rule for a two-year transition period.
On Sunday, Sudan’s new military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan insisted the army rulers were “committed to give power to (the) people,” and pledged to respond to the demonstrators’ demands within a week.
“We will carry on manning the checkpoints as usual,” 23-year-old demonstrator Kawthar Hasaballah said.
“No one, not even the military council, will remove us from our places.”
The mood was upbeat yesterday at the rally site.
Protester Assad Saeed Gaber said he backed the protest leaders’ decision to halt talks.
“The military council has been stalling and attempting to take over power,” he said.
Fellow demonstrator Munira Mustafa al-Badawi was also undeterred.
“I don’t fear violence. I don’t think they (the army) will disperse the protest violently,” he said.
Sudan’s main opposition party has joined calls for the council to be dissolved and to hand power to a transitional civilian government.
“Some of the members of the military council have an agenda,” the National Umma Party said in a statement.
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