Sudanese protesters defy military curfew to denounce army 'coup'

12 April, 2019, 11:14 | Author: Barbara Erickson
  • Sudan President Bashir STEPS DOWN as tens of thousands march in protests against regime

Army tanks rolled onto the streets of Khartoum and the fate of President Omar al-Bashir, in power for three decades was uncertain with military and government sources saying that the embattled leader had been relieved of his duties.

Al-Bashir's fall came just over a week after Algeria's long-ruling, military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was driven from power.

Gen. Awad Mohammed Ibn Auf, the vice-president and defence minister who was appointed by Bashir before announcing the president's removal on state TV, is "very much a symbol of the regime", said Ahmed Soliman, a research fellow at the United Kingdom -based think-tank Chatham House.

Nearly every Sudanese expat I have met was the complete opposite of what Sudan has become under Al-Bashir. He did not say who would head it.

He said Sudan's constitution was being suspended, border crossings were being shut until further notice and airspace was being closed for 24 hours.

"There are consultations to form a military council to take over power after President Bashir stepped down", said Adel Mahjoub Hussein, the minister of production and economic resources in North Darfur.

But it was a government decision to triple bread prices that brought protesters onto the streets in December past year, as the country grappled with regular shortages of food, medicines and foreign currency.

Washington calls "on transitional authorities to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government", State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

Shortly afterward, thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of central Khartoum, their mood turning from jubilation at Mr al-Bashir's expected departure to anger at the announcement of a military-led transition, a Reuters witness said. "People from different backgrounds, genders and tribes are on the streets and chant slogans against Bashir and his administration".

A son of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the country's main opposition Umma Party, told al-Hadath TV that the ousted leader was being held with "a number of leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group".

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Aside from the fact that they are all hard-working, extremely well educated and successful, the other thing they have in common is that they - or their families - all fled Sudan as a result of the 1985 overthrow of the Numairi regime, which was inspired by Islamist leader Hassan Al-Turabi, who for long was Al-Bashir's religious backer.

Rebels from Darfur and the government signed a peace deal in 2010, a year after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Bashir for atrocities committed in the region.

"Victims of the gravest crimes in Darfur should not have to wait any longer for justice."

The crisis intensified on April 6 - the 34th anniversary of a non-violent uprising that removed ruler Jaafar Nimeiri - when thousands began amassing in front of the army headquarters.

A travel advisory warned citizens in Sudan Wednesday about crime and kidnapping reports, and advised them to prepare evacuation plans "that do not rely on USA government assistance".

Protesters chanted: "It has fallen, we won".

As for those who stayed, they have been protesting since December 19, 2018 against the unbearable economic conditions, corruption and political decisions that have left Sudan with very few friends around the world.

Troops deployed around the Defence Ministry compound and on major roads and bridges in the capital. All political prisoners were released across the country. Al-Bashir, who is 75 years old, ruled the country for 30 years.

The U.S. designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 and launched sanctions in 1997.

Separately, South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, after residents voted overwhelmingly for secession in a referendum.

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