Sudan: slide continues

Summary: huge protests continue and the military continue to give ground. Saudi/UAE/Egypt interest.

Since our posting of 12 April hundreds of thousands of demonstrators calling for civilian government have continued the mainly peaceful protests which had led to the ousting of President Bashir. The defence minister Awad Ibn Auf who was appointed to replace him lasted 24 hours, and he resigned along with Salah Gosh, head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Next up was Lieutenant General Abd al-Fattah al-Burhan, heading a military council with Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo the commander of the paramilitary grouping formerly known as Janjaweed as his deputy.

The tone of the street protests is relaxed. “A woman in a black full-face Islamic veil discusses the merits of democracy as a man smoking a marijuana joint listens rather vaguely. A vendor sells corn at a discount, making a fortune. One couple mount a podium to take their marriage vows. ‘We are lions!’ intones a rapper.”  ” The mood feels like just the hugest party. But underpinning all of that, of course, is this sense of persistence.”

What we described as the salami tactics of the protesters, following each concession by demanding another slice, have continued. On 20 April all eight officers ranked Lieutenant-General in the NISS were retired and several top members of the former ruling party were arrested. A search of Bashir’s home found cash in suitcases – $350,000, €6 million and Sud£5 million, and two of his brothers were arrested on corruption charges. On 21 April the military council said the formation of a joint military-civilian council was under consideration. But representatives of the protesters said they were suspending contacts with the political committee of the military council, which they said was composed of remnants of the ousted regime and was dealing with them “in the same old manner”. Yesterday 24 April three generals on the military council offered their resignations.

According to an Al Jazeera report the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) planned to announce its own civilian transitional council today 25 April, but Sudan Tribune reports that following a promise by the military council of unspecified positive steps the announcement has been postponed. The umbrella group of protesters Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, which includes the SPA the main organisers of the protest, said a civilian transitional council with military representation should run Sudan for up to two years. Alaa Salah, the young woman who symbolises the protests for many and who has become known as a “kendaka”, a name historically given to Nubian queens in ancient Sudan, insists that the regime of “murder and tyranny” should be removed in its entirety.

Reuters quotes a Sudanese source that the appointments of Burhan and his team were backed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as part of a strategy of weakening the power of the Islamists, and another source arguing that the influence of Qatar and Turkey were reduced. On 21 April Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they had agreed to send Sudan $3 billion worth of aid, but according to an Al Jazeera report protesters said they should keep their money; they were trying to control Sudan but “we have enough resources to look after ourselves and our interests.” According to Reuters’ sources Burhan’s deputy Dagalo, nicknamed Hemedti, has been backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia and is ambitious to be number one man in Sudan, perhaps a Sudanese Sisi.

Giorgio Cafiero of the Washington-based Gulf State Analytics writes on the Turkish TRT World website “Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will seek to use their leverage over Sudan to ensure that Khartoum remains committed to the war in Yemen, where hundreds of Sudanese forces have died … The odds are good that the Kingdom and the UAE will also put pressure on Khartoum to distance itself from Turkey. With Riyadh and Abu Dhabi focused on undermining Ankara’s interests throughout the Arab world… officials in Turkey have concerns about the future of Suakin Island and Turkey’s military activities in that Red Sea port city in the post-Bashir era. If Sudan pivots closer to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and can help deny Turkey access to Suakin Island, such a scenario would mark a major setback to Ankara’s agenda of projecting greater Turkish influence throughout the Red Sea, Africa, and the greater Muslim world.”

In an 18 April statement the US State Department called on the military to step aside; “The will of the Sudanese people is clear: it is time to move toward a transitional government that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law.” Sudan remains labelled by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism, but none of the members of the military council are under US sanctions. On 21 April it was announced that a Sudanese delegation will shortly go to the US to seek Sudan’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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