Sudan’s Army to Make Statement as Omar al-Bashir is Ousted From Power
The Sudanese army has said it will make an “important statement” on Thursday, amid mounting evidence that it was orchestrating the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power.
“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” a state television anchor said, as a sit-in by protesters outside the defence ministry compound in central Khartoum entered its sixth day.
State media offered no further details, but government sources and officials told wire news agencies that Bashir had stepped down, and a government minister told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that consultations were under way to set up a transitional council to run the country.
Soldiers were also seen raiding the headquarters of the Islamic movement led by Bashir.
Despite a lack of concrete information about what was happening, tens of thousands of Sudanese marched through the centre of Khartoum in jubilation, dancing and chanting anti-Bashir slogans. “People are coming in droves,” said one onlooker. Protesters outside the defence ministry chanted: “It has fallen, we won.”
As people waited for further word, military vehicles were deployed on key roads in the capital and state television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese of how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest. Protest organisers issued a statement vowing to remain in the streets until “the regime steps down completely and power is handed to a civilian transitional government”.
The news of an announcement from the army came as analysts warned that Sudan could descend into anarchy if its political crisis were not resolved peacefully and rival factions within the security establishment fight for power.
The country, one of Africa’s biggest and most strategically important, has been paralysed by months of protests against Bashir’s 30-year rule. There were reports that he was under house arrest with a number of aides at the presidential palace.
Since Saturday, thousands of people have camped at a crossroads in the centre of Khartoum, calling for Bashir to step down. Attempts by security forces to break up the demonstration have killed at least 22 – including five soldiers, who organisers said were defending the protesters – and injured more than 150.
The area of the main protest in Khartoum has expanded slightly since the weekend, witnesses said. Makeshift medical facilities and water distribution points have been set up while protesters have organised cleaning patrols to sweep away rubbish. There have also been reports of protests elsewhere in the country of 40 million people, including Port Sudan in the north-east.
“These kinds of anti-government demonstrations are not new, but this time a much wider swath of society is involved … including professional classes who for decades were either driven overseas or co-opted [by the regime],” said Zach Vertin, an analyst at the Brookings Institution thinktank and author of a new book on Sudan and South Sudan.
Jehanne Henry, an expert on Sudan with Human Rights Watch, said the current round of protests had been boosted by “a greater mobilisation across the board”.
Another new factor is the apparent split within the security forces. Some elements within the military appear to be siding with demonstrators against armed militia loyal to Bashir and the feared intelligence services. “This is unprecedented. We are in a new landscape now,” said Vertin.
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