April 13, At least 16 people were killed and 20 others injured by stray bullets at protests and sit-ins on Thursday and Friday, a Sudanese police spokesman said in a statement on Saturday as the nation waited to hear from its newly appointed leader.
Government buildings and private property were also attacked, spokesman Hashem Ali added.
The release of the death toll comes hours after the Sudanese military replaced the country’s transitional leader who had been in power only one day.
Thousands of jubilant protesters celebrated in the streets of Khartoum on Friday, after Defence Minister General Awad ibn Auf, announced he was stepping down as head of the ruling military council.
He had been named the de facto leader after President Omar al-Bashir was forced out of office on Thursday after 30 years of rule.
Ibn Auf said he would be replaced by General Abdel Fattah Burhan, general inspector of the armed forces, as head of the transitional council, which will rule the country for two years until elections.
“This is for the benefit of our nation … This country has great people and a great army,” Ibn Auf said in a brief TV statement, adding that he hoped the civilians and the military would work together.
Burhan, who was appointed as al-Bashir’s chief of staff and head of the ground forces in February, is expected to speak to the nation on Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reporting from Khartoum said the demonstrators “have been very clear that their desire is to see Sudan led by a civilian government. Not one led by the military.”
While it’s not clear whether Burhan will hand power to a civilian leader she said protesters might be more receptive to Burhan than his predecessors.
“Most people are hopeful because Abdel Fattah [Burhan] is not from the ruling party. He also does not have any political affiliation. He doesn’t have the same tainted history as Omar al-Bashir and Awad Ibn Auf. Both were accused of war crimes in the region of Darfur,” she said.
Hajooj Kuka, an activist, said removing al-Bashir and his allies was the first step to meeting the demands of the protesters.
“We expect after everything settles down to have whoever that committed a crime to be punished. And that should include anyone who has been part of this regime that has committed a crime. It could take a while but we need to have justice,” Kuka told Al Jazeera.
Earlier on Friday, the military council had assured the country that they had “no ambitions” to permanently rule the East African nation.
The council also said a two-year timeline for the military to rule was not set in stone and promised that it would be dissolved as soon as a solution to the political crisis had been found.
Will of the people
But the protest’s main organisers reacted by vowing demonstrators would stay on the streets until they got a civilian government.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said in a statement on Facebook that Ibn Auf’s resignation was a victory for the will of the people.
The group called for the immediate transfer of power as well as the arrests and trials of all leading figures of the past regime involved in crimes against the people.
“In order to implement these demands fully, we must adhere to our sit-in in front of the army HQ and in the capital and launch action in all Sudanese cities until power is transferred in full to a transitional civilian government expressing your aspirations,” the SPA’s statement added.
Oil-rich Sudan’s economy was hard hit when it split from South Sudan in 2011, and the government is currently facing an economic crisis while also battling several rebel groups.
Protests first started in December over an increase in the price of bread. They quickly evolved into demands for 75-year-old al-Bashir’s departure.
Sudan‘s military council has pledged to hold talks with all political groups in the country on forming a civilian government, saying it has no “ambitions to hold the reins of power” following President Omar al-Bashir‘s removal.
The proposal on Friday was immediately rejected by the Sudanese Professional’s Association (SPA), which spearheaded the months-long protests that triggered al-Bashir’s overthrow by the armed forces the previous day.
Instead, the SPA restated its demand for power to be handed immediately to “a transitional civilian government”.
Omar Zain al-Abideen, a member of the transitional military council, which is now running Sudan under General Awad Ibn Auf, said the body was “ready to step down as early as a month if a government is formed”.
Speaking in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, al-Abideen said the solutions to Sudan’s crisis should come from the protesters.
“We are the protectors of the demands of the people,” he said. “We are not greedy for power.”
“We will not dictate anything to the people. We want to create an atmosphere to manage a peaceful dialogue,” al-Abideen said, whilst also warning protesters that “chaos will not be tolerated”.
He added: “We are not going to intervene. Just give us the government list and we will agree upon it and welcome it.”
Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party was not invited to join the dialogue, the council said, because “it is responsible for what happened”.
The state news agency SUNA said Ibn Auf planned to meet political factions and leaders of the protest movement later on Friday and that he was holding off with announcing the full makeup of the military council pending the consultations.
The SPA, however, dismissed the council’s assuarances, saying the body was “not capable of creating change”.
“We are still in the path of true revolution,” the group said, pledging to also “resist” the three-month state of emergency and nighttime curfew imposed by the military on Thursday.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said thousands of Sudanese protesters were continuing to join the crowds camped outside the army headquarters in the capital.
Thousands had defied the curfew imposed from 10pm to 4am overnight on Friday to maintain their days-long sit-in outside the sprawling complex.
“Their (the protesters) whole point is that they don’t want anybody from the old regime or the former ruling party to be a part of the transitional council,” said Morgan.
“At the moment, the military council’s remarks do not seem to be enough.”
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces also rejected the military takeover, Morgan said, citing an announcement by the group, which said the military council’s move “falls short of what the people have been demanding for the past four months”.
The paramilitary forces said they would not take part in the council, she added.
|Sudanese men attend a Friday prayer sermon outside the army headquarters in Khartoum [Mohammed Hemmeaida/AFP]|
At the army headquarters, the mood among the crowds was festive. Some protesters brought in mattresses, fans and even air conditioners, while others swept the streets to keep them clean, signalling they intend to stay long-term.
As thousands of Muslim worshippers lined up in the street to hold prayers, Christian protesters held blankets over them to shade them from the sun in a show of solidarity.
Men and women in the crowds beat drums, clapped and chanted, “Down with military rule” and “We won’t be silent until Ibn Auf is out.”
Dozens unfurled a meters-long Sudanese flag and marched around the square, chanting, “Freedom.”
According to activists, scores of pro-democracy protesters have been killed by Sudan’s widely-feared security services since the demonstrations began in December, sparked by anger over rising bread prices.
The protests quickly evolved into broader calls for al-Bashir and and his political entourage to give up power.
Al-Bashir and the ICC
Separately, the military council announced that it would not extradite al-Bashir to face charges of genocide at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes by militias backed by al-Bashir’s government.
“We may try him, but we will not hand him over”, said al-Abideen. To do so would be “an ugly mark on Sudan … even rebels carrying weapons, we don’t extradite them”.
Notably, Ibn Auf, a veteran establishment insider was himself under sanctions by the United States for his alleged role in supporting those militias.
Ibn Auf said on Thursday that al-Bashir was being detained in a “safe place”.
Sudanese sources told Reuters News Agency that the longtime ruler was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”.
Ibn Auf had also announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution.
World powers, including the US and Britain, said they supported a peaceful and democratic transition sooner than two years. China said it would continue to seek cooperation with Sudan regardless of the political situation.
Antonio Guterres, UN chief, called for a transition that would meet the “democratic aspirations” of the Sudanese people and appealed for “calm and utmost restraint by all”.