Sudan’s military and civilian protest leaders announced on Wednesday that they have made significant progress in negotiations for a transition plan following the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir last month.
Wednesday’s announcement came in the wake of an attack on a mass sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on Monday by armed security forces, the first of its kind. At least five people were killed — including an army officer — and dozens more were injured.
In a joint press conference, military spokesperson Lieutenant General Yasser al-Atta said the two sides agreed to a three-year transition period and on the makeup of a 300-member legislative body. The interim parliament will be entirely comprised of civilians, two thirds of which will be representing protest groups and one third representing opposition parties. The composition of the sovereign council (the ruling body that will preside over the country until elections are held) remains a sticking point, however.
The military ousted Bashir on April 11 after nearly four months of mass protests against his 30-year rule. Protesters have continued a mass demonstration outside the military headquarters as they negotiate the Transitional Military Council that assumed control of the country, demanding an immediate transition to civilian rule.
Security forces attacked the demonstrations — which cover more than five square kilometers — from several sides on Monday, according to eyewitnesses. Troops opened fire on protesters with live ammunition as large bulldozers were brought in to remove barricades around the perimeter of the sit-in. Troops were dressed both in the uniforms of the Sudanese military and those of a notorious paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, which is led by the deputy head of the Transitional Military Council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Military vehicles with Rapid Support Forces markings were also involved in the attack.
However, the military council denied any involvement in the violence in a press conference on Tuesday morning. The Transitional Military Council spokesperson, Lieutenant General Shams al-Din Kabbashi, instead blamed the attack on “infiltrators” who opened fire on Sudanese military forces trying to remove barricades on Nile Street, a main thoroughfare in the capital. On the Transitional Military Council’s official Facebook page, Kabbashi wrote, “Sleeper cells of the former regime are targeting the revolution. We will not allow a security vacuum.”
The protest movement — which is represented by the Coalition for Freedom and Change, a coalition of opposition groups led by the Sudanese Professionals Association — also blamed the violence on “remnants of the ousted regime,” in a statement issued early Tuesday morning. The group described the attack as an attempt to sabotage any progress in the ongoing negotiations with the military.
In a statement sent to Mada Masr, the Coalition for Freedom and Change stated that it rejects any violence against civilians and said they would not allow regime loyalists or other counter-revolutionary forces to compromise the revolution. They also stressed that the military council had a duty to protect peaceful demonstrators.
During the attack, protesters fled some of the barricades as they came under fire but managed to build other barricades in the surrounding streets, and succeeded in actually widening the protest encampment space.
A doctor at one of the main field clinics at the protest site tells Mada Masr that they received over 100 injured patients, most of whom were suffering from gunshot wounds. Others sustained fractures in their hands and feet as a result of a stampede that broke out during the attack.
Some of the wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals by others who were at the demonstration.
“I took a young man in my car who had been completely immobilized by a gunshot wound to the right leg,” says Sara Aboul Naga, who used her car to transport the wounded from the sit-in to the Royal Care Hospital.
She says the hospital was overcrowded with injured people and that a doctor told her the first casualty to arrive at the hospital had died from a gunshot wound to the leg. He also had a spinal fracture that appeared to be the result of a beating.
Montasser Othman, an eyewitness to the incident, tells Mada Masr that he saw soldiers wearing military uniforms firing at the demonstrators, but did not know whether they were regular army forces or militias loyal to the former regime who had donned the uniforms to carry out the attack.
“The situation is very tense,” an eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells Mada Masr. He says the military wants to remove the barricades set up around the sit-in even though demonstrators are planning to continue the protest until their demands are met.
In its statement, the Coalition for Freedom and Change called on revolutionaries in Khartoum and other provinces to take to the streets in peaceful marches and join the sit-in at the military headquarters to ensure that their demands are upheld.