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Military defends protestors as Sudanese leader is overthrown

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Apr 16, 2019 - 10:00:12 PM

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Soldier greets his mom after discovering her as one of the thousands of anti- Bashir demonstrators. (r) Former Sudanese Pres. Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan’s military has overthrown the government of President Omar al-Bashir, saying he would be arrested and taken to a “safe place.”

During a televised broadcast First Vice President and Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf announced “a comprehensive ceasefire in all parts of Sudan and the immediate release of all political prisoners.” He said there would be a two-year transitional period under a military council, a three month state of emergency and a 10 p.m. curfew. Elections would be held after the two-year period, he said.

The army’s ouster came after four months of nationwide protests and ended the reign of one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers. The 75-year-old Bashir becomes the second North African leader, after Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to leave office in the face of nationwide protests, with what some called “stirring echoes of the Arab Spring that rocked the region from 2011.”

Protesters were outraged that the military has taken the reins of power. They are calling for a predominantly civilian transitional government with the military just having one voice among many. One unnamed protestor told the BBC: “Well, I’m totally disappointed, but I expected such a thing, that they were going to play a dirty game. I’m disappointed. I’m quite angry. I’m not happy. He (defense minister) is a supporter of the Bashir regime. He’s the first supporter. And he has been serving Bashir for (a) very long time, and he is not for us protesters. He belongs to the regime.”

Asked “what protesters are planning?” The protester responded, “We are planning to continue to protest. The Sudanese Professional Association (which has organized many of the protests) had an announcement to carry on the protest.”

She agreed with the BBC, saying “this is a military coup, not a popular revolution.” “It’s not a civilian government. We don’t want this. We don’t want the military. We want a civilian government,” she said. Also, she was concerned that a twoyear military transition meant there would never be a civilian government.

School teacher and activist Zakia Mohammad Sadeeg agreed. During a phone interview from her home in Khartoum she said, “The minister of defense is a part of the root of the old Bashir regime.”

Preparing to attend a rally in defiance of the defense minister’s remarks with her mother and niece, Sadeeg said, the defense minister “is responsible for many crimes against the Sudanese people.” He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for a war of genocide in Darfur, she said.

Sadeeq accused him of “corruption that is partially responsible for the deteriorating economic conditions in the country, and for the killing of demonstrators and suppression of freedom.” She believes defense minister “Ibn Auf is no different than Bashir.”

Sadeeg and other protesters issued statements in the past vowing to remain in the streets, not only until the “Bashir regime steps down,” but until “power is handed to a civilian transitional government.”

Recent protests drew demonstrators who numbered in the tens of thousands and led to the overthrow of the Bashir regime that began April 5 in front of Sudan’s military headquarters where President Bashir lives. Nearly 21 protesters, including five soldiers were killed, the Central Medical Doctors Committee reported.

The Doctors Committee also said in an April 8 press statement that “the number of wounded during the protests amounted to 153 people, including critical conditions” and predicted the death toll would rise.

In turn, reported the Sudan Tribune, “the leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi said at a press conference … that about 20 people were killed and dozens injured in attacks carried out at the sit-in of protesters demanding that the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir step down.”

By April 9, the Sudanese army began repulsing attempts by the National Intelligence and Security Services to clear the square of protestors, sometimes with live ammunition, that has gathered in front of the army headquarters. Protestors had camped there since April 6.

By April 10, activists began releasing photos of a colonel and a major talking with protesters the night before. These photos, some appearing in the Sudan Tribune, confirmed statements by military personnel reassuring protesters that members of the army supported the protests.

“It is now obvious that at least the Sudanese army is divided as some of them have declared their support for the demands of the Sudanese people for regime change,” the Sudan Tribune reported.

The Sudan Tribune said it “has seen a video where NISS chief Salah Gosh speaks to a meeting of the National Congress Party leading members … as he accused the army of foiling during the past three days all their attempts to end the sit-in which has paralyzed the capital.”

Protesters went back into the street April 12 vowing to violate a 10 pm curfew and stay out until the military transition council resigned. Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf announced via a televised speech that he was resigning from his position as head of the council, a position he had announced the day before.

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdelrahman will be the new head of the council, Ibn Auf said. He also said Chief of Staff Kamal Abdelmarouf al-Mahi was relieved of his position as deputy head of the transitional military council.

“What happened is a step in the right direction and is a bow to the will of the masses, and we have become closer to victory,” Rashid Saeed, a spokesman for the main protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), told Reuters.

Highlights of the continuous protest, in front of the army headquarters, included the “Nubian Queen,” an image went viral and became the Sudan protest symbol.Note: Nearly 60 percent of protestors were women.

It was a young African woman, alone, dressed in white, standing on an automobile, urging fellow protestors on with poems and songs of revolution.

Musician and entrepreneur Lana H. Haroun posted on YouTube that she got so many responses on Twitter for posting the photo she took with her phone of the “Nubian Queen,” she decided to post her response on YouTube. She said the young woman was trying to give everyone hope and “positive energy and she did. … She was representing all Sudanese women and girls and she inspired every woman and girl at the sit-in. She was telling the story of Sudanese women … she was perfect.”

The Nubian Queen’s name is Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old architecture student from Khartoum. She said, “Since the beginning of the uprising, I have been going out every day and participating in the demonstrations because my parents raised me to love our home (Sudan).”

Salah’s mother is a fashion designer working with the traditional Sudanese toub, the dress the Nubian Queen was wearing.

“The toub has a kind of power and it reminds us of the Kandakas,” she told the UK-based Guardian newspaper.

Kandakas were queens of the Nubian kingdom of Kush, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Sudan more than 3,000 years ago.

One line in a popular poem she read during the demonstrations: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people.”

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