In new talks, Sudan protest leaders to insist on civilian head for governing body


Sudanese protest leaders said Sunday they will insist a civilian runs a planned new governing body in new talks with army rulers, as Islamists warn against excluding Sharia from the political road map.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change is determined that the country’s new ruling body be “led by a civilian as its chairman and with a limited military representation,” it said in a statement.

The protesters’ umbrella group said talks will resume with the military council — which has ruled Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir was deposed on April 11 — at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Talks over a transfer of power by the generals have repeatedly stalled, resulting in international pressure to return to the table after the generals suspended negotiations earlier last week.

The generals insist the new body be military-led but the protest leaders demand a majority civilian body.

On Sunday the protest movement raised the ante by insisting that the ruling body should be headed by a civilian.

The military council is headed by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the generals have previously said he will lead the new governing body.

Before talks were suspended the two sides had agreed on several key issues, including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament, with two-thirds of lawmakers to come from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The previous round of talks was marred by violence after five protesters and an army major were shot dead near the ongoing sit-in outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum, where thousands have camped out for weeks.

Initially, the protesters gathered to demand al-Bashir resign — but they have stayed put, to pressure the generals into stepping aside.

The protesters had also erected roadblocks on some avenues in Khartoum, paralyzing large parts of the capital, to put further pressure on the generals during negotiations, but the military rulers suspended the last round of talks and demanded the barriers be removed.

Protesters duly took the roadblocks down in recent days — but they warn they will put them back up if the army fails to transfer power to a civilian administration.

The generals have allowed protesters to maintain their sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters.

Islamic movements rallied outside the presidential palace Saturday night, to reject any civilian administration that excludes Sharia as its guiding principle.

Hundreds took part in the rally, the first organized mobilization by Islamist groups since al-Bashir’s ouster.

“The main reason for the mobilization is that the alliance (the main protesters’ umbrella group) is ignoring the application of Sharia in its deal,” said Al-Tayieb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of about 20 Islamic groups.

“This is irresponsible and if that deal is done, it is going to open the door of hell for Sudan,” he said.

Al-Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law.

At Saturday’s rally, hard-line cleric Mohamed Ali Jazuli had a warning for the military council.

“If you consider handing over power to a certain faction, then we will consider it a coup,” he vowed as supporters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

The protest leaders have so far remained silent on whether Sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.