Sudan's Army Warns of Violence During Planned Rallies Calling for Civilian Rule

Ruling military council says coalition representing protests has 'complete responsibility' for potential deaths in protests, weeks after dozens were killed in clampdown

People chant slogans and wave Sudanese flags during a demonstration in Khartoum, Sudan, June 21, 2019.
\ Umit Bektas/ REUTERS

Sudan's ruling military council on Saturday warned protest leaders of "destruction or damage" ahead of planned mass rallies over the weekend calling for civilian rule over two months after the military ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir.

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The country's pro-democracy movement has been calling for the demonstration across the country on Sunday, despite efforts by the African Union and Ethiopia to bring the generals and the protest leaders back to the negotiating table.

The protests are planned to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan's last elected government.

The military council said in a statement that the coalition Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, has "complete responsibility" for any deaths during Sunday's marches.

The council warned of "any destruction or damage" to people and the state institutions due to "traffic disruption or road closure."

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, said the council does not oppose the planned demonstrations.

"We are not against peaceful rallies. But there are (vandals), people who have an agenda. We do not want troubles, we do not need strife," he told a gathering of army supporters in Khartoum.

Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, said security forces and troops deployed in the capital of Khartoum aimed at "providing security for people not for harassing them."

The protest leaders said their rallies are planned nationwide, with a focus on Khartoum.

A leader at the FDFC said AU and Ethiopian envoys pressed the protest movement to call off the rallies after the military council said it was open to resuming talks based on the joint proposal.

The FDFC refused but agreed to turn the marches away from the military headquarters and the presidential palace in Khartoum, said the leader, who demanded anonymity to discuss inside deliberations.

Lt. Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, a spokesman for the military council, said the generals were ready to resume "immediate, serious and honest" negotiations to end the political stalemate with the protesters based on a joint proposal offered by the AU and Ethiopia.

The protest leaders did not announce their position from the joint proposal.

A roadmap was built on previous deals between the protesters and the generals but left the shares in an interim parliament open for negotiations, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The AU-Ethiopia initiative tackled the disputed sovereign council, proposing a 15-members body, with eight civilian and seven military members. All the civilians would come from the FDFC, except for one independent and "neutral" appointee.

The AU-Ethiopia proposal stipulates that the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.

Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, told army supporters in Khartoum's sister city of Omdurman that the council would hand over power to the Sudanese people, "who are the true owners of the revolution."

"Old parties are exploiting you. ... Sudanese are tired of words, no actions and false pledges," he said.

Burhan vowed that the military council, the FDFC and other political forces would strike a deal "as soon as possible."

A woman chanted and called for civilian rule as Burhan spoke. After he finished, dozens of people protested in the same area, chanting against the military council.

Talks collapsed when Sudanese security forces cleared a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. The deadly clampdown killed at least 128 people cross the county, according to protest organizers. Authorities say the toll is at 61, including three from security forces.