Sudan coup leader steps down as army seeks dialogue with protesters

Roland Oliphant
Demonstrators gather in Sudan's capital of Khartoum, Friday, April 12, 2019 - AP

The Sudanese defence minister who declared himself head of a provisional military government after ousting President Omar al Bashir in a coup stepped down, after just a day in power. 

Awad Abnouf and his deputy, Kamal Absel Maarouf, resigned in a statement issued on Friday evening. 

Earlier in the day protesters had chanted that they would stay on the streets until Mr Abnouf left.  Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan will take over as head of the military transitional council. 

Sudan's new military rulers said they were ready for dialogue with demonstrators after hundreds of thousands of people defied a curfew to occupy central Khartoum for a sixth night

But the generals warned they would not tolerate “chaos” and ruled out extraditing Bashir, the dictator they deposed in a coup on Thursday, to face charges of war crimes.

“We are not against the demands of the people, we are for the demands of the people, and we have to achieve them,” Zein Abedeen, the general tasked with leading talks with the protesters, said in a press conference.

“We have to adhere to civilised methods and today we will start a dialogue with the political groups, who are invited to hear from us what we have in mind and what they have in mind.”

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has led months of huge anti-government protests, said the “coup makers are not eligible” to oversee change and demanded an immediate hand-over to a “traditional civilian government.”

Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, was deposed on Thursday by his own military after clashes between security services and troops sympathetic to the protests.

Women reportedly make up as much as half of the crowd outside army headquarters Credit: AFP

Leaders of the protest movement immediately rejected the announcement that a military transitional council would assume control of the country and impose a three-month state of emergency.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators spent a sixth night on the streets outside Army headquarters in Khartoum on Thursday and on Friday, in deliberate defiance of a 10pm curfew imposed by the military when they announced their coup. Protesters said there were no attempts by authorities to enforce the curfew.

Several soldiers joined the protest, reinforcing claims by demonstrators that the junior and middle ranks of the army are reluctant to follow the orders of a top brass widely considered to be closely allied to Bashir.

In the morning, protests continued, with festive demonstrators shouting “down with military rule” and parading an enormous Sudanese flag.

Protesters distrust Awad Abnouf, the chief of Sudan's new ruling council who is sanctioned by the US for alleged war crimes Credit: REX

Alsadig Almahdi, the last civilian prime minister before Bashir seized power in 1989 and a great-grandson of the Mahdi who led the uprising against British rule in the 1880s, oversaw Friday prayers at the protest site. 

Protesters said they were particularly distrustful of Mr Abnouf, who announced the coup on Thursday and until Friday headed the new military transitional council.

Mr Abnouf, a former intelligence chief who is sanctioned by the US over his alleged role in atrocities committed in Darfur in the 2000s, was made vice-president by Bashir in February.