Sudan activists reject power-sharing with army, call strikes
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan’s protest movement has rejected internationally backed initiatives to return to a power-sharing arrangement with the military after last month’s coup, announcing two days of nationwide strikes starting Sunday.
The movement called for the establishment of a civilian government to lead a transition to democracy.
The call came as a leader of the country’s main political party accused the military leadership of negotiating in bad faith.
The Sudanese military seized power Oct. 25, dissolving the transitional administration and arresting dozens of government officials and politicians. The coup has been met with international outcry and massive protests in the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.
The takeover has upended the country’s fragile planned transition to democratic rule, more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government.
Since the coup, the international community has accelerated mediation efforts to find a way out of the crisis, which threatens to further destabilize the already restive Horn of Africa region.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which led the uprising against al-Bashir, said late Friday that mediation initiatives which “seek a new settlement” between the military and civilian leaders would “reproduce and worsen” the country’s crisis.
The association vowed to continue protesting until a full civilian government is established to lead the transition.
Under the slogan of: “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing,” the association, which has a presence across the country, called for strikes and civil disobedience Sunday and Monday.
On Thursday, the top U.S. diplomat spoke separately by phone with the military leader, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and Abdalla Hamdok, the deposed prime minister who was put under house arrest during the coup.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged for an immediate return to a civilian-led government and for the release of those detained in connection with the coup. Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency reported that Burhan vowed to “complete the transition and preserve the country’s security … until reaching an elected civilian government.”
Al-Wathig al-Berier, the secretary general of the Umma party, urged the international community Friday to pressure the military to de-escalate. Since the coup, the generals have continued to dismantle the transitional government and arrest pro-democracy leaders. The Umma is Sudan’s largest political party and has ministers in the now-deposed government.
“We truly need to prepare the atmosphere and de-escalate matters so that we can sit at the table,” al-Berier told The Associated Press. “But clearly the military faction is continuing with its plan and there are no efforts to show good will.”
He was referring to Thursday’s arrest of leaders from the Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition that was born out of the 2019 protest movement. The military detained three leaders of the movement shortly after they met with U.N. officials in Khartoum. The meeting was part of U.N.-led mediation efforts.
Al-Berier said the mediation efforts have yet to produce results, blaming the military for that failure. He warned of possible bloodshed since the military and the protest movement have become increasingly entrenched in their positions.
He urged the international community to increase pressure on the military leaders to reverse the coup.
“In these initial stages, we hope that they continue strong pressure. This pressure has to be more than just tweets. This pressure needs to have mechanisms that could create real pressure on the military component,” he said.
In other developments, the board of deans of Khartoum University officially suspended classes indefinitely after security forces stormed the university grounds on Oct. 25, the day of the coup, and beat and insulted students and professors. The classes had already stopped since the coup.
Later Saturday, the Sudanese Professionals Association proposed a transitional government to rule the country for four years that would include a five-member Sovereign Council, with a ceremonial role, and a 20-member technocratic Cabinet, headed by an independent figure.
The proposal envisages a 150-member legislative council, to be formed within two months, and restructuring the military and dismantling all militias, including the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The association said its proposal is open for discussion among other protest movements and non-governmental organizations.
There was no immediate reaction from Sudanese political parties or the coup leaders to the proposal.
Magdy reported from Cairo.