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Sudan new military rulers offer dialogue as protests rage

AFP  |  Khartoum 

Sudan's new military rulers vowed Friday to open a dialogue with all political groups on forming a civilian government as protesters railed against their seizure of power after ousting

But the military council warned it would tolerate no breaches of security after protesters defied a night-time curfew to keep up a sit-in demanding immediate civilian rule.

The of the council's political committee, Omar Zain al-Abdin, confirmed that Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years and was one of Africa's longest serving leaders, remained in custody.

But he said the council would never extradite him, or any other Sudanese, despite a longstanding arrest warrant issued by the (ICC) against Bashir on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Protesters had held mass demonstrations for four months demanding Bashir's overthrow, defying repeated deadly attempts to crush them by riot police and the feared

But when the ouster was finally announced on Thursday in an address to the nation by Awad Ibnouf, it was met not with joy but anger.

Protest leaders dismissed the transitional military council as the "same old faces" from the old regime which had led the country into multiple conflicts and worsening poverty and social inequality.

Thursday's announcement meant "we have not achieved anything", said one 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." Analysts said that Bashir's overthrow in a palace coup made the transition to democracy in a more distant prospect.

"Ironically, the prospects for democratic transition may be more remote than when Bashir was in power as there's no centre of power with which to negotiate," said Alex de Waal, of the at the at

"The power struggle within the security cabal that took power yesterday is just beginning. Bashir had kept their rivalries and ambitions in check; his removal brings in its wake an unregulated uncertainty."

Thousands defied a warning from the miliary council to respect the night-time curfew imposed from 10 pm (2000 GMT) to 4:00 am (0200 GMT), to maintain their vigil outside headquarters in for a sixth straight night.

Protesters were seen chatting with soldiers posted outside. 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." Calls for restraint on all sides have poured in from abroad. called on the military council "to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government".

The urged the to carry out a "swift" handover to civilian rule.

UN called for a transition that would meet the "democratic aspirations" of the Sudanese people and appealed for "calm and utmost restraint by all", his said.

That came after the decried Bashir's military overthrow, saying it was "not the appropriate response to the challenges facing and the aspirations of its people".

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

But vast crowds were expected to throng the streets of and its twin city after the main weekly Muslim prayers at noon raising fears of confrontation between protesters and the security forces.

"Our basic mission is to maintain the country's stability and security," the of the military council's political committee told Friday's conference.

"We will not allow any breach of security anywhere." Sudan's last elected prime minister, opposition 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 from self-imposed exile, Mahdi has allied his party with the grass-roots who were the driving force behind the mass protests that preceded Thursday's military takeover.

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

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

It was the Bashir government's brutal response to the ethnic minority rebellion which erupted in the western region of in 2003 that prompted genocide charges against him.

The ousted stands accused of unleashing Arab militias in a scorched earth campaign against minority villages that killed tens of thousands of civilians and forced hundreds of thousands more into camps.

But the military council's said it would never hand over Bashir.

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

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 12 2019. 18:36 IST