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Sudan: Opposition and protesters reject Burhan’s deal to end military rule

Critics fear coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's offer aims to create a pro-military civilian government as violence against pro-democracy protesters continues
Protesters at a sit-in outside the Al Jawda hospital in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on 5 July 2022 (AFP)
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Khartoum

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, made a televised speech on Monday, saying that the army would dissolve the council after the formation of a new government.

Burhan, leader of the military coup last October that ousted civilians from a transitional administration, said the military would no longer participate in national talks facilitated by the UN and regional blocs, wanting instead “to make room for political and revolutionary forces and other national factions” to form a civilian government.

Burhan’s televised address came as hundreds of anti-coup demonstrators entered their fifth day of sit-in protests, after last Thursday had seen the deadliest violence so far this year.

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Pro-democracy medics said that nine demonstrators had lost their lives, bringing to 114 the number killed in the crackdown against anti-coup protesters since October.

Protesters carrying out the sit-ins, in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere, rejected Burhan's offer and chanted slogans describing him as “the killer who cheated justice”.

In Khartoum's Aldaim district, people held aloft photographs of protesters killed since the military coup of October and called for Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia to be brought to justice for their deaths.

Similar protests occurred in Omdurman and Bahri, as well as beyond, amid calls by the resistance committees for the pro-democracy protesters to join the sit-ins and continue to try to bring down Burhan's military regime.

But sources said that even while Burhan was making his speech, offering the withdrawal of the army after a new government had been formed, his forces were moving towards the sit-in protests to break them up.

Protests growing

Since the nationwide protests began on 30 June, millions of Sudanese have taken to the streets to protest against the military coup.

The sit-ins started in Khartoum, but rapidly spread to Omdurman and Bahri and then other cities further afield, including Madani and Nyala.

Resistance committee member Mohamed Abdul Rahim said there were around eight sit-ins in the country, five in Khartoum and three outside the capital, and that they were increasing in size despite the repeated attempts by the authorities to break them up.

'What Burhan said on Monday is not even worth discussion. We saw the repeated attempts to break up the sit-ins even after his speech'

- Mohamed Abdul Rahim, protester

“We will have nothing to do with the military regime," he told Middle East Eye. "We have had our three 'nos': “No negotiation, no compromise, no partnership.

"What Burhan said on Monday is not even worth discussion. We saw the repeated attempts to break up the sit-ins even after his speech."

Witnesses and protesters from inside the sit-ins in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri said that hundreds of thousands of protesters were joining the sit-ins and that they would continue until the military regime was toppled.

Neighbourhoods around the sit-in areas are opening their homes to the protesters, taking them food, water and medicines and even protecting the protesters inside their homes when the police attack. Barricades have been erected in those neighbourhoods to prevent the advance of police and security vehicles.

Tear gas and rubber bullets

One protester, Osman Gabr, said the sit-in he was participating in, in Sirag, near the main bridge linking the twin cities of Omdurman with Khartoum, had been broken up by the police.

“While the head of the coup was addressing the nation, saying that he was willing to hand over power to civilians, his forces were moving under the cover of darkness towards Sirag to break up the sit-in of thousands of people there,” he told MEE.

“They blockaded and attacked the sit-in with around 50 military and police vehicles on Monday evening and started firing tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs. Some people started to get injured, so we decided to withdraw to avoid more casualties. But we will be back.”

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan speaks during a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces in Khartoum on 26 October 2021 (AFP)
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan at a press conference at the General Command of the Armed Forces, in Khartoum on 26 October 2021 (AFP)

Another protester, Ahmed Mohamed, told MEE that the police and security forces had blockaded the sit-in he is taking part in while Burhan made his speech.

“We are living with the same memories of the breaking up of protests in front of the army headquarters on 3 June 2019," said Mohamed, referring to when the military, headed by the RSF militia, killed at least 128 people in the capital, in what became known as the Khartoum massacre.

'I have lost my only son and I have nothing else valuable to lose in my life'

- Abdul Salam Kisha, father of a killed protester

"The killers are the same and the pro-democracy protesters and demands are the same, so we are using all the peaceful methods that we know to bring down this military regime and build democratic civilian rule.”

Abdul Salam Kisha, the father of one of those killed in the massacre, urged the protesters to continue as the only way to bring about justice for his dead son.

"I have lost my only son and I have nothing else valuable to lose in my life. But it's not only about my son - it's about bringing the killers of every one of the dead protesters to justice and achieving the goals of the revolution," he told MEE.

"Neither the army nor the civilians of the political elites can do that. So we have to crush them and get democracy and justice.”

Deal rejected

The political offer made by Burhan has also been widely rejected by the main political parties in Sudan, amid the continuation of violence by security forces against the protesters.

Among those who have rejected it are the political coalition of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), resistance committees that dominated the streets, the non-signatories of the Juba peace deal, the Sudanese Communist Party and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).

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However, the former rebel movements of the Juba peace agreement have accepted the offer, considering it a step toward the gradual solution of the crisis.

Burhan has offered to hand over power to a civilian administration through a political process sponsored by the United Nations, African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

He said in his address to the nation on Monday that the military would withdraw from internationally mediated talks to allow political factions to pick a new government, signalling a compromise after eight months of crisis sparked by the 2021 coup.

The move will let “political and revolutionary forces” form an independent administration able to rule for the transitional period, Burhan said on Monday. 

“After a government is formed, the presidential sovereign council will be dissolved and another body comprising the army and the RSF militia would be formed and be responsible for Sudan’s security and defence," Burhan said. 

'No concession'

Omer al-Digair, the head of the Sudanese Congress Party, on Monday rejected Burhan's offer on behalf of the FFC coalition, adding that they would not participate in any talks that did not end the coup.

“The army has made no concession, as Burhan has put himself as a reference for the process and aims to create a pro-military civilian government," Digair said.

"He intentionally didn’t talk about the new constitution, about the institutions of the transition and how and who will create it. He didn’t talk about the formation of the legislative assembly, he didn’t talk about the investigation into the killings, so his talks have no value."

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Another FFC member, Siddig Alsadig Almahdi, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party, said that talk about the election without legal and economic reformation "was nothing”.

SPA spokesman Walid Ali said that the proposals in Burhan’s speech aimed to create a pro-military civilian government.

A military expert, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told MEE that the partnership between the military and civilian government was about to repeat itself after the coup.

“I believe that the Sudanese crisis has already been internationalised and regionalised and the majority of the Sudanese actors, including the army, are not in full control of the government. Everyone is under intense international pressure to conclude an agreement that can stabilise the country but not necessarily bring democracy at this stage,” the expert said.

“The acceptance of external intervention brought the failure of the August 2019 compromise that created the hybrid government between the civilians and military.

"So we have to avoid repeating the same scenario, especially as the resistance committees are very mobilised to fight against any attempt to reproduce this type of partnership.”