JEDDAH: Protest leaders in Sudan have called a two-day national strike beginning on Sunday amid new fears that the country’s fragile transition to democracy could descend into further chaos after last month’s military coup.
The democracy movement rejected proposals for a return to power-sharing with the army and demanded the establishment of a new civilian government to lead the democratic transition, while the leader of Sudan’s largest political party accused military leaders of negotiating in bad faith.
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan seized power on Oct. 25, dissolved the transitional administration and arrested dozens of government officials and politicians. The coup sparked an international outcry and massive protests in the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere. It also halted the transition to democratic rule more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of dictator Omar Bashir and his Islamist government.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which led the uprising against Bashir, said mediation initiatives that “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, and called for strikes and civil disobedience on Sunday and Monday under the slogan “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing.”
It proposed a four-year transitional government consisting of 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.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged an immediate return to a civilian-led government, and called for the release of those detained by the coup leaders, including government ministers and activist leaders.
Al-Wathig Al-Berier, secretary-general of the Umma party, urged the international community 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 had ministers in the deposed government.
“We truly need to prepare the atmosphere and de-escalate matters so that we can sit at the table,” Al-Berier said.
“But clearly the military faction is continuing with its plan and there are no efforts to show goodwill.”
He said mediation efforts had yet to produce results, and blamed the military for that failure.
He warned of possible bloodshed since the military and the protest movement had become increasingly entrenched in their positions, and 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,” Al-Berier 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.