Sudan army chief says soldiers 'will not attack protesters'

  • Published
Leader of Sudan"s transitional council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman BurhanImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan said he would be willing to give up power in days

The head of Sudan's military transitional council has told the BBC the army will not use force against protesters who want it to leave power.

Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan spoke as African leaders extended their ultimatum for the military to organise a return to civilian rule.

The army had warned it would remove protesters camped outside its headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

President Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power on 11 April after 30 years.

Protesters accuse the military of being "remnants" of the ousted long-time ruler.

Leaders of the protest movement have suspended transition talks and co-operation with the military because they doubt its sincerity to hand over power.

A mass sit-in outside the military HQ has been taking place since 6 April. Five days later Mr Bashir was overthrown and replaced by a military council that promised it would relinquish power to civilians within two years, a proposal rejected by protesters.

Lt-Gen Burhan told the BBC HARDTalk programme that the military had taken control to ensure security in the country.

"Protesters have a right to demonstrate anywhere, and we want to reach an agreement [to hand over power], we are not here to stay. The army will go back to the barracks," he said.

He added that he was willing to hand over power within days if a consensus can be reached with civilian groups.

Media caption,

The protesters are digging in but it's unclear how they can persuade the army to hand over power

Meanwhile, African leaders meeting in Egypt have agreed to extend the African Union's (AU) 15-day deadline, for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to give power to civilians, to three months.

"We agreed on the need to give more time to Sudanese authorities and Sudanese parties to implement these measures," said Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who chaired the meeting.

Failure to meet the AU's deadline could see Sudan suspended from the continental body - a situation that would complicate its political and economic crisis.

How did it all begin?

In December 2018, the government tried to stave off economic collapse by imposing emergency austerity measures and a sharp currency devaluation.

Cuts to bread and fuel subsidies sparked demonstrations in the east over living standards, but the anger soon spread to Khartoum.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Omar al-Bashir was deposed by the military after months of protests

The protests quickly widened into demands for the removal of President Bashir, in charge for nearly 30 years, and his government.

The Sudanese military toppled Mr Bashir on 11 April but demonstrators have vowed to stay on the streets until there is a move to civilian rule.

Who are the protesters?

The economic problems brought Sudanese from all walks of life on to the streets but the organisation of demonstrations was taken on by the SPA, a collaboration of doctors, health workers and lawyers.

A large proportion of the protesters have been women and the demonstrators are mostly young.