Sudanese protesters Thursday launched a "million-strong" march to turn up the heat on the ruling military council after three of its members resigned following talks on handing over power.
It is amid this heightened tension that the possibility of a counter-coup against the military rule is rising. Sudan could face a counter-coup if military rulers and the opposition do not reach an agreement on a transition of power, leading opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi said yesterday. Mahdi said he believed Sudan's military council would hand over power to civilians if the current stalemate were broken. He also said he would consider running for president only in an election, not during the transition period.
Mahdi, Sudan's last elected prime minister, was toppled by President Omar al-Bashir in a bloodless coup in 1989. He is Sudan's most prominent politician, and Mahdi's Umma party is engaged in the negotiations with the Transitional Military Council (TMC). Hardliners from al-Bashir's National Congress Party could stage a coup along with allies in the army if the TMC and the opposition fail to make progress in talks, Mahdi said.
The rally outside the army headquarters comes after the military rulers and protest leaders agreed to set up a joint committee to chart the way forward two weeks after the ouster of the veteran president. "We call on our people, who have been demanding a transitional civilian rule, to participate in the million-strong march," said the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the umbrella group leading the protests. "Our sit-in will continue to protect our revolution and to ensure that all our demands are achieved," the alliance said in a statement.
During mass protests, witnesses in downtown Khartoum said crowds of protesters had gathered outside the Egyptian Consulate and Embassy, which were surrounded by riot police. Several people held banners calling on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi not to "interfere in our affairs," after Cairo hosted a summit of African leaders calling for more time for a transition to civilian rule in Sudan. The military rule is backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that have pledged billions of dollars to support Sudan since the coup.
Protests first broke out on Dec. 19 in response to the tripling of bread prices, swiftly turning into nationwide rallies against al-Bashir's three-decade rule. Protesters, who were initially jubilant over the word of the coup, reacted by saying they will not end their nearly weeklong sit-in outside the military's headquarters in central Khartoum until a civilian transition government is formed.
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