The African Jotter

Citizens Celebrate As Sudanese Army Prepares to Make ‘Important Announcement’

Recent reports have surfaced that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down, this after the Sudanese army on Thursday planned to make “an important announcement”, state media said, after weeks of protests against the longtime leader.

THE LATEST:

The army has taken control of certain government installations, a lot of people associated with the ruling regime have been arrested. The army has been cooperative, protective of protests. Omar al-Bashir has not been heard of. Top government and military officials have had a meeting without the president. – Äl Jazeera

Celebrations are already under way in Sudan as protesters have taken to the streets, waiting for the official announcement to be made.

Äl Jazeera reports that the president has not been seen for 24 hours.

Khartoum International Airport has been closed down – Al Arabiya.

Omar al-Bashir under house arrest, his bodyguards detained – Anadolu Agency.

“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” a television anchor said, without giving further details.

Military officers surrounded the presidential palace in Khartoum – Bloomberg reports.

WHAT WE KNOW:

(Bloomberg)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir plans to step down, Arabiya reported on Thursday, following months of anti-government protests.

The report cited unidentified sources and contained few other details. State radio said on Thursday the Sudan national army is preparing to make an important announcement as Military officers surrounded the presidential palace in Khartoum.

Bashir would be the second leader in the region to quit amid nationwide protests this month, following Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation.

Calls for Bashir to resign reached fever pitch in recent days, as security forces fired tear gas at thousands of protesters gathered outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Demonstrators staged a sit-in outside the president’s residence, urging the army to back their movement.

The demonstration was called by the Sudanese Professionals Association to mark the anniversary of the 1985 rebellion that overthrew President Gafaar Nimeiry. The outlawed group includes doctors, engineers and academics, and has played an instrumental role in sustaining the uprising.

The army’s latest movements come as Bashir’s embattled ruling National Congress Party cancelled a planned “million-man” rally to defend the 75-year-old on Thursday.

Africa’s third-largest nation has seen uprisings and demonstrations during Bashir’s three decades of rule. But the latest movement, which started in December with an outcry over rising living costs, had posed the biggest threat to his reign since he seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup. His government has acknowledged some economic grievances, but insisted elections in 2020 remain the only path to change.

People have protested across Sudan, pleading for international financial assistance as security forces battled to contain them. Rights groups have said more than 45 people were killed and 2 600 arrested.

The protests, which erupted in December, have become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule.

Thursday marked the sixth day of a defiant sit-in outside the military’s headquarters, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.

Crowds of demonstrators have spent five nights thronging the sprawling complex, singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs.

Several military vehicles carrying troops entered the army compound in the early hours of Thursday, witnesses said.

And witnesses said many army vehicles carrying troops were deploying in the centre of Khartoum early Thursday.

“People are coming in droves,” said an onlooker at the sit-in without revealing his name for security reasons.

The group spearheading the nationwide demonstrations urged residents of the capital to mass outside army headquarters.

“We call on our people from across the Khartoum capital and the region around to immediately go to the sit-in area and not leave from there until our next statement is issued,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said.

Death toll mounts 

The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) since they began camping outside the complex on April 6, protest organisers say.

But for the first time on Tuesday night they did not face any “threat” from security agents, said a protester who requested anonymity for security reasons.

That came after 11 people, including six members of the security forces, were killed on Tuesday during demonstrations in the capital, government spokesperson Hassan Ismail told the official SUNA news agency.

Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.

“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, referring to an ancient name for Sudan, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside the army headquarters.

Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.

“The time has come for the Sudanese authorities to respond to these popular demands in a serious” way, the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.

“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition.”

Sudan, along with Iran, Syria and North Korea, is on Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide, came to power in a 1989 coup. He remains one of the longest serving presidents in Africa.

On Tuesday, security agents had to abort bids to disperse the crowds when soldiers countered their volleys of tear gas by firing in the air, witnesses said.

NISS said it was “monitoring the demonstrations and discharging its duty according to law”.

Troops stationed

Sudan’s police has ordered its forces not to intervene against protesters.

“We call on God to preserve the security and calm of our country… and to unite the Sudanese people… for an agreement which would support the peaceful transition of power,” it said in a statement.

On Wednesday, protesters were raising funds to ensure a regular supply of food and water for the crowd.

“Many shop owners and businessmen have offered us free supplies,” said one demonstrator.

Protesters have set up five big screens at the complex to watch football matches, an onlooker said.

Witnesses said troops stationed vehicles mounted with machine-guns at the gates of the army complex.

The SPA said “several members and leaders” of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF) had given indications they would join the movement.

The RSF is made up of Arab militias that fought on the side of government forces against rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in the initial years of the conflict.

Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party said plans to hold a rally backing the president on Thursday had been postponed.

News24