President arrested after months of protests that escalated with mass sit-in on Saturday
Thousands of people continued to pack the streets of Khartoum on Thursday afternoon, as protest organisers in Sudan rejected the army’s announcement that the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir would be replaced by a military-led transitional council, The Guardian reports.
In a statement broadcast on state TV, Sudan’s defence minister said Bashir had been arrested and that a military council would take over for two years, after which elections would be held.
Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, who is also an army general, said political detainees would be released but that a state of emergency would continue for three months and that a curfew from 10pm to 4am would be enforced for at least a month. All ports will remain closed for 24 hours.
The army takeover came after months of protests that escalated at the weekend when thousands of demonstrators began a sit-in outside the defence ministry compound in central Khartoum.
The protesters’ rejection of their new rulers will raise fear of significant bloodshed in the hours and days to come.
“For a long time, examining what’s going on in the state and the corruption that is going on,” Ibn Auf said. “The poor are poorer and the rich are still rich and there are no equal chances for the same people.”
Though the removal from power of Bashir was initially welcomed with joy on the streets of Khartoum elsewhere, that rapidly turned to anger when details of the new government became clear.
The army’s decision to impose a curfew tonight is the most immediate challenge to the pro-democracy campaigners, effectively ordering the thousands who have occupied a crossroads in the centre of Khartoum for five days to disperse. .
A spokesman of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which has been organising the massive demonstrations, said the military takeover was unacceptable.
“We do not accept the government by the army for the next two years … The regime remains the same. Just five or six people have been replaced y another five or six people from within the regime. This is a challenge to our people,” Ahmed al-Montasser, a spokesman for the SPA, said from Germany.
Montasser said protesters currently camped in front of army headquarters would defy the new curfew, despite the significant risk of being attacked by security forces.
“We … have faced shotguns and curfews before. We trust in our people that they will challenge and defeat this curfew. Peaceful protest is our method to change the regime in Sudan. Unfortunately there will be casualties but there is no other options,” Montasser said.
A statement from the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of civil society groups, accused the army of “an internal, military coup d’etat.”
“We shall stand our ground on the public squares and roads that we have liberated with our might, continuing with the popular struggle until state power is reinstated to a civilian transitional government that represents the forces of the revolution,” the statement said.
Activists in Khartoum told the Guardian they would continue their “battle for freedom” while protesters at the sit-in site waved banners saying: “You changed one thief for another thief. We will fight”.
One said: “We feel very bad this afternoon. Like we have had our victory stolen from us. We will have to win it again.”
There were reports of crowds chanting slogans against the military in Atbara, Medani and other towns.
The protests in Sudan, one of Africa’s biggest and most strategically important countries, erupted on 19 December in the eastern city of Atbara after a government decision to triple the price of bread, but quickly evolved into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s rule.
Attempts by security forces to break up the Khartoum sit-in have already killed at least 22 – including five soldiers, who organisers said were defending the protesters – and injured more than 150. Pro-democracy activists said they were concerned that those soldiers who sided with the demonstrators would now face reprisals.
“They declared their support and now they have disappeared. Our demands remain unchanged: to bring the real criminals to justice,” said Abdelarahim Abayazid Hassan, a veteran Sudanese activist in Finland.Timeline
Bashir’s fall came just over a week after similar protests in Algeria forced the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had been in power there for 20 years. Many commentators see the two uprisings as part of a new wave of unrest in the Arab world eight years after the Arab Spring of 2011.
Others point to factors such as a very young population, social media and out of touch, elderly leaders that are common across Africa too.
The armed forces have played significant roles in a series of political upheavals on the continent and across the Middle East, sometimes exploiting popular anger at the economic mismanagement of long-serving authoritarian rulers to bring about changes that often fall far short of demands of pro-democracy groups and demonstrators.
Bashir seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989 and has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the west to weaken him.
The 75-year-old faces genocide charges at the international criminal court relating to extensive human rights abuses perpetrated by Sudanese forces against civilians in Darfur, the western region gripped by conflict since 2003 . The UN says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
Ibn Auf is a controversial figure himself, blacklisted by Washington for his role as the army’s head of military intelligence and security during the Darfur conflict. He has been defence minister since 2015 and was promoted in February by Bashir to the role of first-vice president.