Sudanese hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli speaks as supporters in front of the Presidential Palace in downtown Khartoum, May 18 2019. Picture: MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP
Sudanese hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli speaks as supporters in front of the Presidential Palace in downtown Khartoum, May 18 2019. Picture: MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP

Khartoum — Sudanese protest leaders said on Sunday they will insist a civilian runs a planned new governing body in new talks with army rulers, as Islamists warn against excluding sharia from the political roadmap.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change is determined that the country’s new governing body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation”, it said in a statement.

The protesters’ umbrella group said talks would resume with the military council — which has ruled Sudan since president Omar al-Bashir was deposed on April 11 — at 7pm GMT on Sunday.

Talks over a transfer of power by the generals have repeatedly stalled, resulting in international pressure to return to the table after the generals suspended negotiations earlier this week.

The generals insist the new body be military-led but the protest leaders demand a majority civilian body.

On Sunday the protest movement upped the ante by insisting the governing body should be headed by a civilian.

The military council is headed by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the generals have previously said he would lead the new body.

Before talks were suspended, the two sides had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of legislators to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The previous round of talks was marred by violence after five protesters and an army major were shot dead near the ongoing sit-in outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum, where thousands have camped out for weeks.

Initially, the protesters gathered to demand Bashir resign — but they have stayed put, to pressure the generals into stepping aside.

The protesters had also erected roadblocks on some avenues in Khartoum, paralysing large parts of the capital, to put further pressure on the generals during negotiations, but the military rulers suspended the last round of talks and demanded the barriers be removed.

Protesters duly took the roadblocks down in recent days — but they warn they will put them back up if the army fails to transfer power to a civilian administration.

The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters. 

Islamic movements rallied outside the presidential palace on Saturday night, to reject any civilian administration that excludes sharia as its guiding principle. Hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli addressed the protesters on Saturday night.

Hundreds took part in the rally, the first organised mobilisation by Islamist groups since Bashir’s ouster.

“The main reason for the mobilisation is that the alliance [the main protesters’ umbrella group] is ignoring the application of sharia in its deal,” said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups.

“This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan,” he said.

Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law.

At Saturday’s rally hardline cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli had a warning for the military council.

“If you consider handing over power to a certain faction, then we will consider it a coup,” he vowed as supporters chanted “Allahu Akbar”.

The protest leaders have so far remained silent on whether sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.