Protest leaders in Sudan set to unveil civilian ruling body

Sudanese volunteers wait in front of a barricade to check protesters during a demonstration outside the army complex in the capital Khartoum, Sunday. Arabic writing on concrete makeshift barricade reads:"Our revolution is peaceful." — AFP

KHARTOUM — Sudanese protest leaders were preparing Sunday to unveil a civilian council that they want to take power from military rulers, who have resisted calls to step down despite mass demonstrations.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum ahead of the announcement, an AFP correspondent reported, a day after the two sides pledged to hold more talks.

On Friday the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which was at the forefront of the protest campaign that toppled longtime president Omar Al-Bashir this month, said it would announce the civilian council on Sunday.

It has invited foreign diplomats and journalists to attend the event at the rally site.

“We are waiting for the announcement today,” Romaysaa Omar, one of the protesters at the sit-in area, told AFP.

“All Sudanese people are in favor of the council to be announced by the SPA.”

Whistling and waving Sudanese flags, dozens of demonstrators were sitting on a bridge at the site, rhythmically banging stones against metal.

“We will stay at the site until all our demands are met,” said Al-Baraa Yousef, another demonstrator.

On Saturday, protest leaders and the military rulers held talks about a power handover and agreed to continue discussions.

“We clarified our main demand, which is the transfer of power to civilian authorities,” Siddiq Yousef, a senior member of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protest movement, told state television after Saturday’s talks.

“We agreed to continue negotiations to reach a solution that satisfies both the sides, so that the transfer of power will happen in a peaceful way.”

On Saturday Ahmed Al-Rabia, a senior member of SPA, said it was possible that the unveiling of the council could be delayed.

“If (the military council) are willing to negotiate, then there is a chance that tomorrow’s announcement could be postponed,” he said.

Since Bashir was ousted on April 11 by the army in response to months of mass street protests, the military rulers have resisted calls to transfer power to a civilian body.

“What we want from them is a timetable to hand over power, so things don’t drag on,” said Rabia.

He said mounting pressure from the street and from the international community was expected to make the military council cede power in “two to three weeks”.

“We are done with the easy part. We want to remove the entire regime,” said Rabia.

Protest leaders say the civilian council would form a transitional government to rule Sudan for a four-year term, followed by elections.

“All we hope for is to be ruled by civilians and get rid of the military rule,” said protester Ehsan Abdallah. — AFP