Sudanese women raise banners as they celebrate after an announcement made by Sudan's new military rulers, April 13 2019. Picture: EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP
Sudanese women raise banners as they celebrate after an announcement made by Sudan's new military rulers, April 13 2019. Picture: EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP

Khartoum — Sudan’s foreign ministry on Sunday urged the international community to back the country’s new military rulers to help “democratic transition”.

“The ministry of foreign affairs is looking forward to the international community to understand the situation and to support the transitional military council ... in order to achieve the Sudanese goal of democratic transition,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The steps taken by the army on Thursday April 11, take the side of the people for the sake of freedom, peace and justice,” the ministry said, echoing the catch-phrase of the months-long protest movement that led to the ousting of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

The chief of the military council, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is “committed to having a complete civilian government and the role of the council will be to maintain the sovereignty of the country”, the military said.

Burhan is also committed to an independent judiciary and to preparing the environment for political parties and civil society to build themselves up “in order to have a peaceful transition of power”, the ministry said.

Burhan took the oath as chief of the military council after his predecessor stepped down a day after ousting Bashir.

Tens of thousands of people have been camped outside the army headquarters since April 6 demanding both the deposing of Bashir and the transition to civilian rule.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that several thousand Sudanese protesters continued a sit-in outside the defence ministry on Sunday as they urged the military to accelerate a transition towards civilian rule.

Civilian demands

The main organiser of protests that led to Bashir’s ouster, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), has demanded that civilians be included on the transitional military council and has pressed for Bashir’s close associates to leave. It has called for a restructuring of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the dissolution of militia forces that operated under Bashir.

The sit-in, which began on April 6, was the culmination of a protest movement that began nearly four months ago, triggered by a worsening economic crisis. Up to 4,000 people were still camped out on Sunday morning, a Reuters witness said, slightly fewer than on previous days. People were starting to go back to work for the first time in days. There were deadly clashes at the sit-in last week, but the atmosphere on Sunday was relaxed, with soldiers deployed in the area drinking tea and chatting with protesters.

“We are at our sit-in until we hear the response from the army to the professionals association demands,” said student Mouawiya Mubarak.

“We will defend the revolution from hijacking. Our demands are clear and have not yet been achieved, why would we go home? Our sit-in is the most powerful weapon in our hands," the SPA said in a tweet.

On Friday, defence minister Awad Ibn Auf, who announced Bashir’s ouster and arrest, stepped down after just one day as head of the military council. On Saturday, state media reported that the head of the NISS, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh — better known as Salah Gosh — had also resigned.

Burhan has said the transition period will last for a maximum of two years. He has cancelled an overnight curfew and ordered the release of all prisoners jailed under emergency laws put in place by Bashir. 

Elsewhere, Amnesty International has called on Sudan’s new authorities to investigate the role of the country’s former spy chief in killings of demonstrators during months-long protests that preceded the fall of Bashir.

Ghosh had overseen a sweeping crackdown led by NISS agents against protesters. “It is crucial that Sudan’s new authorities investigate Salih Ghosh’s role in the killings of scores of Sudanese protesters over the past four months,” Amnesty said on Saturday.

Initial protests against Bashir’s regime erupted in December 2018, when the government announced a tripling of bread prices. The rights group said “allegations of torture, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations under” Ghosh’s supervision of the intelligence service should also be investigated. Bashir had appointed Ghosh as NISS chief in February 2018 for his second stint in the post, after a first tenure ended in August 2009.

Ghosh had worked on and off for NISS ever since the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power, according to Sudanese media. He was credited with building the organisation into one of the most important pillars of Bashir’s regime before his dismissal a decade ago. He was later jailed on accusations of plotting a coup but no evidence was found against him and Bashir pardoned him.

Over the years NISS has overseen repeated crackdowns on government opponents and the media. Its agents frequently confiscated the entire print-runs of newspapers that criticised government policy or reported on protests.

“The new authorities in Sudan must address past human rights violations and undertake desperately needed reforms to ensure that there can be no repeat of the heinous crimes,” Amnesty said.

AFP, Reuters