Sudan talks resume after shootings mar breakthrough

Woman flash the victory sign outside the army headquarters in Khartoum on Tuesday. Ousted President Omar Al-Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime rallies last month. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2019
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Sudan talks resume after shootings mar breakthrough

  • Troops deployed after demonstrators block roads and burn tires in Al-Arbaa
  • Protest leaders changed their stand on Tuesday

KHARTOUM: Protest leaders resumed talks with Sudan’s military rulers Tuesday seeking to build on a political breakthrough overshadowed by deadly shootings.

The protest movement is demanding a civilian-led transition following 30 years of rule by President Omar Al-Bashir, but the generals who toppled him have been holding onto a leadership role.

An army major and five protesters were killed by unidentified gunmen at a long-running sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum late on Monday, just hours after the two sides announced they had reached agreement on the structure and powers of bodies that will oversee a transition.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change — the protest movement umbrella group negotiating with the ruling military council — said the shootings were an attempt to “disturb the breakthrough.”

The military council said it had “noticed some armed infiltrators among the protesters” at the sit-in, but did not identify them.

Protest leaders changed their stand on Tuesday. “It’s their (military) direct responsibility to guard and protect the citizens,” Mohamed Naji Al-Assam, a prominent figure in the movement, told reporters.

On the political track, protest leaders remained locked in talks with council representatives expected to focus on the composition of transitional bodies to run the country. The protest movement has demanded they have civilian majorities.

The military is ready to accept a mainly civilian Cabinet but has been demanding a military majority in a proposed sovereign council that will have the final say on matters of state.

Also on the agenda was the duration of the transition, with the military calling for a two-year timeframe, while the protesters want four years to allow time for preparatory reforms.

The latest round of talks which opened on Monday come after a break in negotiations that saw protest leaders threaten “escalatory measures” to secure their central demand of civilian rule. The issue has kept protesters camped outside army headquarters around the clock ever since Bashir’s overthrow.

The sit-in has become the focal point for the protest movement, overtaking the near-daily protests that had been held across Sudan while the veteran president remained in power.

But on Tuesday, following the previous night’s violence at the Khartoum sit-in, protesters held demonstrations in the Abbassiya and Al-Arbaa regions.

In Al-Arbaa, some demonstrators blocked roads with burning tires, a witness said, adding that troops deployed to the area.

Doctors, who along with other professionals have played a major part in organizing the protests, have set up field clinics at the sit-in where they treated the wounded from Monday’s shootings.

“So far all cases are stable, and those unstable have been transferred to hospital,” a duty doctor told AFP.


Sudan's top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

Updated 26 May 2019
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Sudan's top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition group and supporter of the protest movement on Sunday rejected its call to stage a two-day general strike, in the first sign of a rift within the movement negotiating the launch of civilian rule.
Talks between leaders of the umbrella protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and army generals who seized power after ousting autocrat Omar Al-Bashir last month are deadlocked over who should lead a new governing body - a civilian or soldier.
In a bid to step up pressure on the generals, the protest movement has called for a general strike starting Tuesday, but the National Umma Party, a key backer of the movement, rejected the measure.
"We reject the general strike announced by some opposition groups" in the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the National Umma Party said in a statement.
"A general strike is a weapon that should be used after it is agreed upon by everybody," Umma said.
"We have to avoid such escalated measures that are not fully agreed."
The National Umma Party led by former premier Sadiq Al-Mahdi said any such decision should be taken by a council of leaders of the protest movement.
Such a council was still not in place and "will be composed in a meeting on Monday", it said.
It was Mahdi's elected government that Bashir, who himself was deposed on April 11, toppled in a coup in 1989.
In a recent interview with AFP, Mahdi warned protesters not to "provoke" the army's rulers as they had been instrumental in ousting Bashir.