KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The Sudanese group that led protests against deposed President Omar al-Bashir called on Monday for the transitional military council that has taken power to be disbanded and for a new interim civilian ruling council to be formed.
Representatives of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) piled on pressure on the armed forces leaders who have taken over, issuing a long list of demands for deeper and faster change.
If their demands were not met, the group would press on with protests and would not join a future transitional government, Ahmed al-Rabie, an SPA member, told Reuters.
The SPA was holding its first news conference since Bashir, who ruled with an autocratic hand, was ousted by the military last Thursday following months of street demonstrations.
A new interim civilian body should be given full executive powers, with the armed forces having representation, and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took over last week should be dissolved, the SPA said.
“If our demand for the formation of a civilian transitional council with military representation is not met, we will not be part of the executive authority, the cabinet, and we will continue the mass escalation and the sit-ins to fulfill our demands,” Rabie told Reuters.
The SPA issued its demands hours after protesters blocked an attempt to break up a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry that has continued despite Bashir’s departure, a Reuters witness said.
Troops had gathered on three sides of the sit-in and tractors were preparing to remove stone and metal barriers, but protesters joined hands and formed rings around the sit-in area to prevent them.
Some of the most prominent SPA leaders, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s and were detained until after Bashir’s ouster, spoke at the news conference.
SPA representatives also renewed their calls for the head of the judiciary and his deputies and the public prosecutor to be removed. They demanded the dissolution of Bashir’s National Congress Party and said they received affirmation from the TMC that the party will not participate in a transitional government being negotiated.
The SPA also called for the seizure of the party’s assets and the arrest of its prominent figures.
It demanded the dissolution of paramilitary groups that were loyal to the old government, and of the National Intelligence and Security Service’s (NISS) operations authority, and called for an end to Sudan’s press law and the public order law, which they have said restricts freedoms.
On Saturday, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, better known as Salah Gosh, resigned as head of NISS. He was once seen as the most powerful person in the country after Bashir and protesters held him responsible for the killing of demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.
“For us in the SPA, in the first stage, the transitional government stage, we will play a role in the restoration of the civil service and state institutions and establishing a democratic state,” said Gamaria Omar, an SPA member.
“Afterwards, the SPA will be comprised of unions, and will be a guardian of democracy in Sudan,” she added.
‘PROTECT YOUR REVOLUTION’
Outside the Defense Ministry on Monday, the protesters, numbering about 5,000 in the morning with more arriving, chanted “Freedom, freedom” and “Revolution, revolution”, and appealed to the army to protect them.
Some drummed and waved national flags as they mingled in the street, while others took shelter from the sun under parasols and makeshift tents.
“We hope that everyone will head immediately to the areas of the sit-in to protect your revolution and your accomplishments,” the SPA said.
At the news conference, the SPA said the military had promised to protect the sit-in.
The protest outside the compound, which also includes the intelligence headquarters and the presidential residence, began on April 6, after more than three months of protests triggered by a deepening economic crisis.
On Monday the military council said it was restructuring the joint forces command, appointing a new chief of staff for the army and a deputy.
‘CLARITY’ SOUGHT ON BASHIR
Britain’s ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, said he had met the deputy head of the transitional military council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, and had “asked for clarity on whereabouts of former President Bashir and other senior former regime figures”.
When the military announced Bashir’s ousting, they said he had been arrested and was being kept at a “safe place”. Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at a presidential residence under “heavy guard”.
Siddiq said on Twitter he had also requested the reform of the NISS and the release of detainees, as well as the cancellation of all bureaucracy and permits for delivering humanitarian aid.
Dagalo, known by his nickname Hemedti, heads Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which human rights groups have accused of widespread abuses in the western region of Darfur. Sudan’s government has previously denied wrongdoing by the RSF.
Hemedti has also met with other Western diplomats, including the U.S. chargé d’affaires and Dutch ambassador to Sudan.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry