(Reuters) Sudan’s ruling military council on Friday promised a new civilian government, a day after the armed forces overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, but the gesture was immediately rejected by mistrustful protest leaders.
The council, which is now running Sudan under Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, said it expects a pre-election transition period it announced on Thursday to last two years at most, or much less if chaos can be avoided.
The council also announced that it would not extradite Bashir to face accusations of genocide at the international war crimes court. Instead, he might go on trial in Sudan.
Friday’s announcement of a future civilian government by the head of the military council’s political committee, General Omar Zain al-Abideen, appeared aimed at reassuring mistrustful demonstrators who went back into the streets to warn against imposing army rule after Bashir’s ouster.
But the main protest group dismissed the pledge,
saying the military council was “not capable of creating change”. In a statement, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) restated its demand for power to be handed immediately to “a transitional civilian government”.
Bashir, 75, himself seized power in a 1989 military coup. He had faced 16 weeks of demonstrations sparked by rising food costs, high unemployment and increasing repression during his three decades of autocratic rule.
Worshippers packed the streets around the Defence Ministry for Friday prayers, despite high temperatures, witnesses said, heeding a call by the SPA to challenge the military council.
The numbers swelled in the afternoon and a Reuters witness said hundreds of thousands of protesters were estimated to have thronged areas around the ministry, which was guarded by soldiers.
“We do not reject a military council in principle, but we reject these people because they are from Bashir’s regime,” said Abdelhamid Ahmed, a 24-year-old doctor at the sit-in.
Zain al-Abideen vowed that the military council would not interfere with a civilian government. However, he said the defense and interior Ministries would be under the council’s control.
The military council is headed by Ibn Auf, who was Bashir’s vice president and defense minister and is among a handful of Sudanese commanders sanctioned by Washington for his alleged role during the atrocities committed in the Darfur conflict.