Sudan protesters pledge 'million march' for civil rule

Sudanese protesters pressure the military council. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Sudanese protesters pressure the military council. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Sudanese protest leaders raised the pressure on the country’s army rulers on Wednesday, threatening a general strike and calling for a million-strong march to demand a civilian government.

The military council that took power after veteran president Omar al-Bashir was ousted earlier this month meanwhile called the rally leaders for more talks.

Siddiq Farouk, a protest leader, told reporters the demonstrators were “preparing for a general strike” across the country if the army rulers refuse to hand power to a civilian administration.

He also said that a “million-strong march” is planned, confirming a call by the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that launched protests against Bashir in December.

Ahmed al-Rabia, a senior SPA leader, said the group was calling on “a million [people to] march on Thursday”.

For the first time, Sudanese judges said they would join a sit-in outside army headquarters “to support change and for an independent judiciary”.

The demonstrations began in the central town of Atbara on December 19 against a decision by Bashir’s government to triple bread prices.

They swiftly turned into nationwide demonstrations against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.

The council, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan since his predecessor quit after barely 24 hours in the post, says it has assumed power for a two-year transitional period.

Talks suspended

The protesters suspended talks with the council on Sunday over its refusal to transfer power immediately.

The military council said it had invited the protest leaders to another meeting on Wednesday evening at the presidential palace.

Thousands have camped outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum since before Bashir was deposed, and have vowed not to leave the area until their demands have been met.

The protesters have found support in Washington, which has backed their call for civilian rule.

“We support the legitimate demand of the people of Sudan for a civilian-led government, and we are here to urge and to encourage parties to work together to advance that agenda as soon as possible,” State Department official Makila James told AFP on Tuesday.

“The people of Sudan have made their demand very clear,” she said.

“We want to support them in that as [it is] the best path forward to a society that is respectful of human rights, that respects the rule of law and that would be able to address this country’s very serious issues,” she added.

But on Tuesday several African leaders, who had gathered in Cairo at the behest of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, insisted on “the need for more time” for a transition, according to the Egyptian presidency.

The leaders urged the African Union to extend by three months an end-of-April deadline for the council to hand power to a civilian body.

Rashid al-Sayed, a spokesman for the SPA, insisted Wednesday that “what’s happening in Sudan is an internal matter”.

“We are betting on the continuation of protests and protesters,” he said.

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