By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s main protest group said on Tuesday the military did not seem serious about transferring power to civilians after ousting President Omar al-Bashir, as both sides appeared to harden their positions.
Protesters and activists have been negotiating with the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to form a joint civilian-military body to oversee a transition, but are deadlocked over who would control the new council.
Opposition groups say it must be civilian-led and have vowed a sit-in outside the defence ministry until their demands are met, but the TMC has shown no sign it is willing to relinquish ultimate authority.
“What we feel from all the actions of the military council until now is that they are not serious about handing over power to civilians,” Mohammed Naji Elasam, spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), told reporters in Khartoum.
“With the passing of time the powers of the military council are expanded and this is a very big danger for the Sudanese revolution,” he said.
The SPA leads an alliance of activists and opposition groups called the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, which has held three meetings with the TMC since Saturday.
“The military council has the chance to participate in the state that we are working on … but might lead us to the risk of straying into something unpleasant,” said Khalid Omar, one of the leaders of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces.
“We will continue the sit-in until the achievement of the goals of the revolution. Our demand is clear and that is civilian authority.”
The TMC reiterated that it was open to more talks, but warned there should be no further unrest beyond Tuesday, a reference to protests disrupting trains and blocking bridges.
It said it would not disperse a protest sit-in that has been taking place outside the defence ministry since April 6.
“We are ready to negotiate but no chaos after today,” said the TMC’s deputy head, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who goes by the nickname Hemedti. “We told them, continue with the sit-in, but the train is connected to delivering fuel,” he added.
The sit-in, the culmination of 16 weeks of demonstrations against Bashir’s three-decade rule, has continued after the army removed him from power on April 11.
The SPA, which has spearheaded the protests, has called for civil disobedience and a general strike to increase pressure on the military council.
SPA spokesman Elasam said no date had been fixed for the end of negotiations but opposition groups would deliver their written position to the TMC within hours.
The TMC also confirmed that it had accepted the resignations of three of its members whose dismissal the SPA had demanded over their alleged role in a crackdown that killed dozens of protesters.
One of the three members, who resigned last week, was Lieutenant-General Omar Zain al-Abideen who headed the TMC’s political committee. The other two were Lieutenant-General Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh and Lieutenant-General Al-Tayeb Babakr Ali Fadeel.
TMC member Lieutenant General Salah Abdelkhalek tried to distance the council from Bashir’s government.
“We are part of the revolution and not part of the former regime as people view us,” he told reporters.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Omar Fahmy; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Lena Masri; Editing by Janet Lawrence)