Sudanese forces clear protesters with gunfire; talks suspended for 72 hours

Nellie Chapman
May 18, 2019

Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) on Thursday announced suspension of talks with the major opposition forces for 72 hours.

The protest movement that brought down president Omar al-Bashir after 30 years of iron-fisted rule is demanding a civilian-led transition, which the generals have steadfastly resisted since bowing to their demands and toppling the autocrat.

At a press conference late Tuesday in Khartoum, Yasir Alatta, a leading member of the ruling Transitional Military Council, said they have allocated the right to form the cabinet to the opposition alliance.

The council head also said that the TMC has chose to remove all barricades in central Khartoum placed by protesters beyond a designated sit-in zone outside the Defense Ministry.

Mass protests in Sudan continue to call for civilian rule following last month's military coup.

"We vow to our people that the agreement will be completed fully within 24 hours in a way that it meets the people's aspirations", Atta said.

As a reminder, the military had originally wanted a four-year transition period while protest leaders had sought two years.

The issue has kept thousands of protesters camped outside army headquarters around the clock ever since Bashir's overthrow.

Sudanese protesters rally in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on 8 April 2019.

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"While they claimed that a third party was the one who did so, eyewitnesses confirmed that the party was in armed forces vehicles and in armed forces uniforms, so the military council must reveal this party".

But in his statement announcing the suspension, chief Burhan said the protesters were "provoking the security forces", referring to reports of clashes between demonstrators and members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Talks have been marred by street violence, with several people wounded.

"They asked us to dismantle barricades in parts of the capital", Rashid al-Sayid, a spokesman of the umbrella protest movement the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.

That civilian government would work towards having the first post-Bashir elections after the end of the transition period.

On Monday night, eight people were killed as unidentified forces attacked protesters around the sit-in square.

"The decision for security forces to escalate the use of force, including the unnecessary use of tear gas, led directly to the unacceptable violence later in the day that the TMC was unable to control", it said.

Only the defence and interior ministries would be headed by military figures, he said.

Security forces were seen chasing protesters in downtown Khartoum and removing some roadblocks, an AFP correspondent said.

"It seems that there is so much confusion within the military council", said Rabie, adding that there are probably those within the military council who disagree "among themselves as to whether they shall hand power over to civilians".

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