Sudan Rape Victims Insist Al-Bashir Must Face ICC Trial

Sudan's Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir
Sudan’s Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir

 

 

For Jamal Ibrahim, whose sisters were raped by militiamen in Darfur, only the handover of Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court can bring peace to the restive Darfur region.

“Two of my sisters were raped in front of my eyes by militiamen who stormed through our village, setting our houses on fire,” Ibrahim, 34, told AFP at Camp Kalma, a sprawling facility where tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur have lived for years.

“Bashir and his aides who committed the crimes in Darfur must be handed over to the ICC if peace is to be established in the region.”

Ibrahim, who is from Mershing in the mountainous Jebel Marra area of Darfur, said his village was attacked by Arab militiamen in March 2003 soon after conflict erupted in the region.

The fighting broke out when ethnic African rebels took up arms against Khartoum’s then Arab-dominated government under Bashir, alleging racial discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, a group of mostly Arab raiding nomads that it recruited and armed to create a militia of gunmen who were often mounted on horses or camels.

They have been accused of applying a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The brutal campaign earned Bashir and others arrest warrants from The Hague-based ICC for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

About 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, the United Nations says.

 ‘Won’t accept any peace deal’ 

Bashir, who denies the ICC charges, was ousted by the army in April after months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule of three decades.

He is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption, but war victims like Ibrahim want the ex-leader to stand trial at the ICC, something the northeast African country’s new authorities have so far resisted.

Ibrahim said his father and his uncle were shot dead when militiamen, riding on camels, rampaged through their village.

“We fled from there… and came to this camp. Since then we have not returned to our village,” Ibrahim told an AFP correspondent who visited Camp Kalma last week.

Established near Niyala, the provincial capital of South Darfur state, Camp Kalma is one of the largest facilities hosting people displaced by the conflict.

It is a sprawling complex of dusty tracks lined with mud and brick structures, including a school, a medical centre and a thriving market, where everything from clothes to mobile phones are sold.

Hundreds of thousands of Darfur victims live in such camps, subsisting on aid provided by the UN and other international organisations.

In Camp Kalma, hundreds of women and children queue up daily to collect their monthly quota of food aid.

“Often the officials here tell us that we must return to our village, but we can’t because our lands are occupied by others,” said a visibly angry Amina Mohamed, referring to Arab pastoralists who now occupy large swathes of land that previously belonged to people from Darfur.

“We won’t accept any peace deal unless we get back our land. We will leave this camp only when those who committed the crimes are taken to the ICC.”

 Unconvinced victims 

Even as instances of violence in Darfur, a region the size of Spain, have fallen in recent years, there are still regular skirmishes between militiamen fighting for resources and livestock.

Sudan’s new transitional authorities have vowed to bring peace to Darfur and two other conflict zones of Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A Sudanese delegation led by generals and government officials is currently holding peace talks in the South Sudan capital of Juba with two umbrella rebel groups that fought Bashir’s forces in these three regions.

On Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a “permanent ceasefire” in the three regions to show that authorities are committed to establishing peace.

But residents of Camp Kalma are not convinced, with hundreds of them staging a protest against the talks in Juba.

Musa Adam, 59, who hails from the village of Dilej but has lived in Camp Kalma for years, is in no mood to forgive Bashir.

Seven members of his family were shot dead by militiamen when they raided his village in 2003, Adam said.

“I know those militia leaders… I am ready to testify at the ICC against them as a witness to their crimes,” he said.

“Until these criminals are taken to the ICC, we cannot have peace in Darfur.”

AFP

Amnesty International Demands Justice For Victims Of Sudan Violence

Secretary-General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo speaks during a press conference in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on September 13, 2019.
Ebrahim HAMID / AFP

 

Rights group Amnesty International Friday called for justice for those killed during months of protests that rocked Sudan, insisting that demonstrators had faced “disproportionate and unnecessary” violence.

Sudan has experienced unprecedentedly large rallies since December, first against now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir and later against the generals who seized power after overthrowing him.

The protest movement says that more than 250 demonstrators were killed in the violence, including at least 127 in a crackdown on a sit-in during early June outside military headquarters in Khartoum.

“Amnesty International thanks the people of Sudan for showing us courage, for showing us resilience and for showing that we can resist injustice and violation of human rights,” Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo told reporters during a visit to Khartoum, in the first such trip by the rights group’s chief to Sudan.

He said the demonstrators were confronted by “disproportionate use of violence, unnecessary use of violence and provocative use of violence”.

READ ALSO: South African Protesters Demand Crackdown On Femicide

“Amnesty International will back the Sudanese people in calling on the new government to ensure that there are absolute accountability and justice” for the families of those killed.

Protests first erupted in December against the then government’s decision to triple the price of bread.

They swiftly escalated into a nationwide campaign against Bashir’s ironfisted three-decade rule.

The army ousted Bashir on April 11 but protesters continued their street campaign, switching it against the military council that overthrow him.

In August, Sudan embarked on a transition to civilian rule thanks to a power-sharing deal signed between protest leaders and the generals, and a joint civilian-military ruling body was sworn in.

On Sunday, an 18-member cabinet was sworn in, the first since the ouster of Bashir.

AFP

Sudan Protesters Seek Justice For Killed Comrades

People chant slogans as they march with banners and signs calling for the appointment of a new permanent chief of judiciary and prosecutor general during a mass demonstration near the presidential palace in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on September 12, 2019. PHOTO: EBRAHIM HAMID / AFP

 

Hundreds of Sudanese protesters rallied near the presidential palace on Thursday, seeking justice for comrades killed in demonstrations that rocked the country since December.

Mobilised by protest umbrella the Forces for Freedom and Change, demonstrators also urged the new authorities to appoint a permanent chief of judiciary and prosecutor general.

“Blood for blood — we won’t accept compensation!” chanted the crowds near the palace in Khartoum, many carrying Sudanese flags and photographs of those killed in protest related violence.

More than 250 people have been killed since protests erupted in December, first against now-ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir and later against a military council that deposed him.

In August, Sudan embarked on a transition to civilian rule thanks to a power-sharing deal signed between protest leaders and the generals, and a joint civilian-military ruling body was sworn in.

That body — headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who also led the military council before it was dissolved last month — now sits at the presidential palace.

At least 127 demonstrators were killed in a crackdown in early June at a weeks-long sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the protest movement.

Officials gave a lower death toll.

Members of the feared Rapid Support Forces militia – headed by General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a key powerbroker in the military council and subsequently the new sovereign council — have been widely accused of orchestrating those killings.

On Thursday, protesters also demanded a new permanent chief of the judiciary and a prosecutor general in order to investigate cases against those responsible for the killings of demonstrators.

“The revolution could fail if there’s a delay in these appointments,” a group of lawyers who are part of the protest movement said in a statement.

Similar rallies were also reported in the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan and in the towns of Kassala and Madani, witnesses said.

Sudan’s first cabinet since the ouster of Bashir was sworn in on Sunday.

AFP

Corruption Trial: Bashir Accused Of Receiving $90m From Saudi Arabia

Omar Al-Bashir

 

Omar al-Bashir received $90 million in cash from Saudi royals, an investigator told a court at the opening Monday of the deposed Sudanese strongman’s corruption trial.

The former president, who was forced from power by months of protests in April after 30 years in power, sat in a metal cage wearing a traditional white gown.

His relatives chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) as proceedings got under way in the Khartoum court where he arrived in a huge military convoy.

Bashir faces a raft of charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide from the International Criminal Court over his role in the Darfur war but Monday’s trial is over graft allegations.

Large amounts of cash were found at this residence after he was toppled and the investigator said the case brought forward to the court probed some of that money.

“The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25 million sent to him by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,” investigator Ahmed Ali said.

According to him Bashir had said he also received two previous payments of $35 million and $30 million from Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

“This money was not part of the state budget and I was the one who authorised its spending,” the investigator quoted Bashir as saying.

Bashir had said the Saudi money was exchanged and spent and that he could not remember how nor did he have documents providing further details, he added.

Bashir looked calm during the nearly three-hour session, which an AFP photographer and correspondent attended. The next hearing was scheduled for August 24.

 Darfur crimes 

In May, Sudan’s prosecutor general also said Bashir had been charged over killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his ouster.

London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International has warned however that the corruption trial should not distract from his Darfur indictments.

“While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty urged the country’s new transitional institutions to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute, a move that would allow for his transfer to the international tribunal.

The Hague-based ICC has for years demanded that Bashir stand trial, and has renewed its call since his fall.

The head of Bashir’s defence team, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, said in July that the ousted leader’s trial had no “political background”.

“It is an absolute criminal case with a baseless accusation.”

It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.

The trial comes as the composition of the joint civilian and military sovereign council that will steer the country of 40 million through a 39-month transition was due to be unveiled on Monday.

The line-up had been expected to be announced on Sunday but it was delayed after one of the five nominees put forward by the opposition alliance representing protest leaders turned down the job.

The Transitional Military Council which took over from Bashir and will be dissolved by the creation of the sovereign said the announcement had been delayed at the request of the opposition.

The composition of the new body is now expected on Tuesday.

The ruling sovereign council will be composed of 11 members including six civilians and five from the military.

It will be headed by a general for the first 21 months and by a civilian for the remaining 18 months.

The council will oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration including a cabinet and a legislative body.

The transition’s key documents were signed on Saturday at a ceremony attended by a host of foreign dignitaries, signalling that Sudan could be on its way to shedding the pariah status the Darfur atrocities and Bashir’s international arrest warrant had conferred on it.

Amidst the euphoria celebrating the promise of civilian rule, unease was palpable however within the protest camp that brought about one of the most crucial changes in Sudan’s modern history.

One of its main causes is the omnipresence in the transition of General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a paramilitary commander and one of the signatories of the documents, whose forces are blamed for the deadly repression of the protests.

And it remains unclear how the transitional institutions will tackle the daunting task of pacifying a country plagued by several conflicts, including in the regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.

AFP

Sudan’s Muslims Mark First Post-Bashir Eid With Muted Celebrations

Sudanese Muslims buy livestock at a market in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on August 11, 2019, as they mark their first Eid Al-Adha feast without Omar al-Bashir as a ruler in three decades. 
Jean Marc MOJON / AFP

 

As Muslims in Khartoum marked their first Eid al-Adha feast without Omar al-Bashir as a ruler in three decades, the mood was upbeat on Sunday but the menu stayed frugal.

Months of bloody anti-regime protests created a historic opportunity for civilian rule in Sudan but also saw prices soar, putting a damper on celebrations.

In Khartoum markets, the price of a sheep — a must in the Feast of the Sacrifice which is considered the holiest day in the Muslim calendar — has doubled since last year.

“You used to be able to find a sheep for 3,500” Sudanese pounds ($60), said Mohamed Abdullahi, a farmer who lives on Tuti, a rural island wedged between the twin cities of Khartoum and Omdurman, where the Blue and White Nile meet.

This year he paid 8,000 pounds, an amount he couldn’t really afford even after raising the selling price of the milk from the few cows he rears on a small plot by the riverbank.

“I have three children, I had to bring them something for the feast,” the greying 43-year-old said.

In Khartoum’s Bori neighbourhood, considered one of the cradles of the protest movement that brought down Bashir earlier this year, an Eid market known for its low prices is witnessing record turnover.

“There’s a lack of cash in Sudan at the moment. Here we are using electronic payment cards a lot, to make it easier for the people,” said one of the traders, Maki Amir.

“Many people feel happy because of the revolution and the peace that was signed last week, that’s why they want a real Eid celebration,” he said.

Sudan’s economy was sent into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and the past eight months of turmoil — which initially erupted with protests over a tripling of bread prices — have taken a further toll.

Still mourning

As buyers swarmed the huddled sheep on the dusty open market ground and inspected the animals’ teeth, the haggling was sometimes acrimonious.

Some men looking to buy a sheep to slaughter blamed traders for taking advantage of the power vacuum to raise their prices.

The traders retorted they were being taxed by the government more than ever before.

Since the last devaluation of the pound in October by the then Sudanese authorities, the currency has plunged by a further 70 percent against the dollar on the black market.

A deal was reached a week ago between the country’s generals and protest leaders to transition to civilian rule in just over three years.

The landmark constitutional agreement is to be signed at a ceremony on August 17 but, even if its provisions are implemented, the country remains on the brink of economic collapse.

On the capital’s walls, some of the protest murals have already been painted over and its streets were largely empty, many residents having left town to celebrate Eid al-Adha in their villages.

At the market in Bori, Amir Abdullah came to buy a goat for an expatriate friend who wants it donated to charity but he will not be able to afford one for himself this year.

He also said celebrating did not feel like a priority after so many protesters, an estimated 250, were killed in their efforts to take down the military regime.

“Eid is not the same for everybody. Now I’m still in mourning for those who lost their lives,” said Abdullah, sweat pearling on his forehead from the afternoon heat.

“Definitely, the situation is getting worse, there is no work, no income and no investment… but we have to stay focused on achieving the goals of the revolution: freedom, peace and justice.”

AFP

Sudan Killings: Al-Bashir Should Face Justice, Says ICC

Sudan’s Ex-President, Omar al-Bashir/ AFP

 

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday demanded that deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir stand trial for the mass killings perpetrated in Darfur.

“Now is the time for the people of Sudan to choose law over the impunity and ensure that the ICC suspects in the Darfur situation finally face justice in a court of law,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council.

Bashir, who has been in jail in Sudan since a military coup ended his 30-year rule in April, was indicted by the ICC in 2009 in connection with fighting in the western region of Darfur.

READ ALSO: Court Orders End To Internet Blackout In Sudan

More than 300,000 people have died there and 2.5 million others have been displaced since 2003, according to UN figures.

Bashir appeared in a court in Khartoum on Sunday to hear corruption charges levelled against him. He also faces possible murder charges for the deaths of demonstrators killed during the protests that led to his downfall.

The generals who now rule Sudan have so far ruled out transferring Bashir to the ICC, which accuses him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC prosecutor said that after the tumultuous events of recent months, Sudan “is now at a crossroads with the opportunity to depart from its previous policy of complete non-cooperation.”

He urged the country to “embark on a new chapter by signalling a new commitment to accountability for the victims” in Darfur.

“I am ready to engage in dialogue with the authorities in Sudan to ensure that the Darfur suspects face independent and impartial justice, either in a courtroom in The Hague or in Sudan,” said Bensouda.

“Continued impunity is not an option,” she said. “The victims of the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court.”

The ICC has issued five arrest warrants in connection with the Darfur case. As well as Bashir, two suspects, Abdel Raheem Hussein and Ahmad Harun, have reportedly been arrested in Sudan, Bensouda said.

Several members of the Security Council, most of them European states, have backed Bensouda’s calls for Bashir to be brought before the international court and for the new authorities in Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC.

AFP

Sudan’s Ex-President Al-Bashir Charged Over ‘Killing’ Of Protesters

Omar Al-Bashir

 

Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir has been charged over the killings of protesters during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule, the prosecutor general announced Monday.

“Omar al-Bashir and others have been charged for inciting and participating in the killing of demonstrators,” the office of Sudan’s acting prosecutor general Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Kill Six In Burkina Faso Catholic Church

The charges against Bashir came during an investigation into the death of a medic who had been killed during a protest in the capital’s eastern district of Burri.

“The prosecutor general has recommended speeding up of the investigation of the killing of demonstrators,” the statement from his office said.

AFP

Jordan Loses ICC Appeal Over Bashir’s Non-Arrest

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir / AFP

 

International appeals judges Monday upheld a reprimand of Jordan for failing to arrest former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a visit to the Arab country two years ago.

Amman had appealed a decision by the International Criminal Court which found that Jordan “failed to comply with its obligations” when it refused to detain Bashir in 2017, wanted by the Hague-based tribunal for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the ICC’s appeal judges eased the blow by reversing pre-trial chamber judges’ decision to refer Jordan to the UN Security Council and the court’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) for further measures.

Despite two international warrants for his arrest on 10 charges arising from the conflict in Darfur, Bashir freely attended an Arab League summit in Amman in March 2017.

READ ALSO: Thirteen Killed In Taliban Attack On Afghan Police Compound

“By failing to arrest and surrender Mr Bashir, in circumstances in which Mr Bashir was entitled to no immunity, Jordan prevented the court from exercising an important power and a fundamental function,” Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said.

Jordan is a member of the Rome Statute, which underpins the tribunal — established in 2002 to try the world’s worst atrocities — and as such has agreed to comply with the court’s orders.

In a first for the court, Amman last year appealed the ICC’s findings that it failed to fulfil its legal obligations in seizing Bashir, saying it was not obliged to do so.

Jordan’s lawyers argued that Bashir at the time of his visit was a sitting head of state “and therefore immune to arrest,” based on the international legal principle of comity between states.

But Eboe-Osuji said Monday that head-of-state immunity did not stop the ICC — an international court — from exercising its jurisdiction according to its founding document, the Rome Statute.

Easing the verdict on Jordan however, Eboe-Osuji added that the court’s pre-trial judges should not have referred the matter to the Security Council and the ASP.

“The judges’ discretion to refer the case to the UNSC and ASP was tainted,” Eboe-Osuji said.

Over the last decade Bashir has travelled to a number of countries who did not arrest him, including ICC member states like South Africa and Jordan.

Bashir was toppled last month after 30 years of iron rule in Sudan, raising hopes that he would be extradited to The Hague to stand trial.

Large Sums Of Cash Found In Al-Bashir’s Home – Report

Omar al-Bashir. (File: ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

 

A money laundering investigation has been launched in Sudan after large sums of cash in foreign and local currency was found in ousted leader Omar Al-Bashir’s home, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Quoting a judicial source, the news agency reported that Sudan’s public prosecutor is investigating al-Bashir on charges of money laundering and possession of large sums of foreign currency without legal grounds.

Al-Bashir’s fate has continued to look bleak since the military ousted him following protests by citizens who were disillusioned by his reign.

A source in his family told the AFP on Wednesday that he had been transferred to the Kober Prison in Khartoum.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes, but the military, which announced a two-year rule after toppling his government, said he would not be extradited.

Meanwhile, citizens have continued to protest, calling for the military to hand over power to civilians.

Protest leaders were to hold talks Saturday with the country’s military rulers who have so far resisted calls to transfer power to a civilian administration, leading figures in the protest movement said.

The talks come on the eve of the protest leaders’ planned announcement of a ruling civilian council that they say will replace the military body.

“The military council will hold talks with the Alliance for Freedom and Change at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT),” Siddiq Yousef, a senior member of the umbrella group leading the protest movement, told AFP.

Since the ouster of veteran president Omar al-Bashir by the army on April 11, Sudan has been ruled by a 10-member military council.

But protesters, who have camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum, demand that the council hand over power swiftly to a civilian body.

Another member of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) that launched the initial campaign against Bashir confirmed that talks would take place on Saturday.

“Five representatives from the alliance will go today to the military council to discuss with them the transfer of power to civilian rule,” Ahmed al-Rabia told AFP.

He said if the military rulers refused to hand over power, then the protest leaders would go ahead with their planned announcement of a “sovereign civilian council” on Sunday.

“If they are willing to negotiate, then there is a chance that tomorrow’s announcement could be postponed,” Rabia said.

“What we want from them is a timetable to hand over power, so things don’t drag.”

He said that since the ouster of Bashir, the military council has held two rounds of talks with the protest leaders.

“During these talks we’ve felt that the military council has no desire to hand over power,” Rabia said.

Ousted Sudan President Bashir Transferred To Prison, Says Family Source

Sudanese ex-President Omar al-Bashir gives a press conference at the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum/ AFP

 

Ousted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has been transferred to a Khartoum prison following his toppling by the army last week, a source from his family told AFP on Wednesday.

“Last night, Bashir was transferred to Kober prison in Khartoum,” the source said without revealing his name for security reasons.

READ ALSO: Egypt Parliament To Vote On Extending President Sisi’s Rule

Bashir was ousted by the army last Thursday after four months of protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule. The country’s new military rulers had said he was being held “in a secure place”.

AFP

ICC Arrest Warrant: Sudanese Military Says It ‘Will Not Extradite’ Ousted President

An image grab from a broadcast on Sudan TV shows Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, the head of the new Sudanese military council’s political committee, addressing a press conference on April 12, 2019, in the capital Khartoum, one day after Sudan’s army ousted the Arab-African country’s veteran president Omar al-Bashir.
Handout / Sudan TV / AFP

 

Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes, will not be extradited, the country’s new military rulers said Friday.

“The president is currently in custody,” the head of the military council’s political committee, Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, told a news conference.

READ ALSO: Angry Sudanese Protesters Defy Curfew After Military Coup

“We as a military council, we will not deliver the president abroad during our period” in office, Abdin said when asked about the ICC arrest warrant.

AFP

Angry Sudanese Protesters Defy Curfew After Military Coup

Sudanese soldiers stand guard on armoured military vehicles as demonstrators continue their protest against the regime near the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on April 11, 2019. AFP

 

Sudanese protesters angry that army commanders have taken control after removing veteran president Omar al-Bashir in a palace coup defied a night-time curfew to keep up four months of mass demonstrations on Friday.

Protest leaders dismissed the transitional military council formed by top brass after they toppled Bashir on Thursday, as the “same old faces” from the old regime which had ruled the country with an iron fist for three decades.

Demonstrators demanded a civilian body to lead the transition to democracy and bring an end to the multiple conflicts which have pushed the country into worsening poverty.

Most shops and offices were closed on Friday which is the day of prayer and rest in Sudan.

READ ALSO: Sudan Defence Minister Sworn In As Chief Of New Military Council

Vast crowds were expected to throng the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman after the main weekly Muslim prayers at noon raising fears of confrontation.

Washington called on the military council “to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government”.

The European Union urged the army to carry out a “swift” handover to civilian rule.

Sudan’s last elected prime minister, opposition Umma party leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was overthrown by Bashir in a military coup in 1989, was expected to address supporters after prayers at one of Omdurman’s most revered mosques.

Since returning to Khartoum from self-imposed exile, Mahdi has allied his party with the grass-roots who was the driving force behind the mass protests that preceded Thursday’s coup.

The Sudan Professionals Association — a well-organised umbrella group of doctors, teachers and engineers — has called for a huge turnout at Friday’s turnout as has the wider opposition Alliance for Freedom and Democracy.

‘This Is Now Our Square’

Despite warnings from the new military council to respect the nighttime curfew, the soldiers posted outside army headquarters made no move to disperse the protesters who camped out there for a sixth straight night on Thursday, demonstrators said.

Protesters were seen chatting with soldiers. They said their quarrel was with the commanders who had led the coup, not the rank and file.

“There was no difference between last night and previous days and nights for us,” said one protester who gave his name as Abu Obeida.

“This is now our square. We have taken it and won’t leave until victory is achieved.

“We broke the curfew. We will continue doing it until we have a civilian transitional government.”

Ibnouf said a transitional military council would replace the president for two years, adding that the country’s borders and airspace were shut until further notice.

He said the council was also imposing a 10 pm (2000 GMT) to 4:00 am (0200) GMT curfew.

State television later broadcast footage of him taking the oath to become head of the council, alongside his new deputy, army chief of staff Lieutenant General Kamal Abdelmarouf.

State television said there would be a fresh announcement from the military council on Friday.

Bashir, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, was one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Ibnouf apologised for “the mismanagement, the corruption and the injustice” that had led to mounting social inequality.

He also apologised for the regime’s resort to strong-arm tactics to attempt to crush the protests which had led to the “loss of people’s lives”.

But his apology fell on deaf ears among the protesters, who had repeatedly defied bullets and tear gas to keep up their sit-in before the army stepped in.

Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything”, said another protester who gave his name only as Adel.

“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir.”

It was a far cry from the scenes of celebration that had initially greeted the army’s announcement it would intervene on Thursday, when demonstrators cheered and hugged soldiers on the streets, some of whom joined the demonstrations.

‘Utmost Restraint’

The opposition Sudanese Congress Party called for the establishment of a joint military and civilian council to rule for a four-year transitional period.

It also urged the army to give executive powers to civilians.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a transition that would meet the “democratic aspirations” of the Sudanese people and appealed for “calm and utmost restraint by all”, his spokesman said.

That came after the African Union decried Bashir’s military ouster, saying it was “not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people”.

The military council said it was declaring a ceasefire across the country, including in war-torn Darfur.

But the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW) fighting government forces in Darfur denounced what it called a “palace coup”.

Sudan’s feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said it was freeing all the country’s political prisoners, state media reported.

But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, the releases failed to materialise, prompting protesters to storm NISS buildings, according to witnesses.

Protesters have otherwise largely heeded the calls of organisers to refrain from attacking government official or buildings as they press their campaign for sweeping reform.

AFP