(Cairo) Sudan’s military rulers have moved to contain national anger at the killing of over 60 demonstrators within a protest camp outside the general army command in downtown Khartoum on June 3rd. Their new measures are stirring up a hornet’s nest, fuelling a fresh wave of debates.
The restive Arab country’s Transitional Military Council was formed following the ousting of longtime president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on April 11th. It said it would launch an inquiry into the killing of the demonstrators and bring those responsible for the tragedy to account.
“Nobody will get away with crimes committed against the people of Sudan,” said Mohamed Osaman Daqlo, the deputy head of the council. “We have ordered a transparent and speedy inquiry into the incident.”
The killing of the demonstrators was decried both inside and outside Sudan, including at the United Nations Security Council, where country representatives met on June 5 to pass a resolution condemning the violence. They failed due to interference by China and Russia.
Inside Sudan, there is little belief that the transitional authorities will take enough measures to ensure that those responsible for Monday’s massacre will be brought to court.
Sudanese political activist Khaled Omar accused the transitional authorities of killing more people in 50 days than Bashir did in the last five months of his rule.
“Nobody believes the council’s pledge to do the victims of this massacre justice,” Omar said.
The head of the National Umma Party, Sudan’s main opposition group, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, described the attack as a “terrible thing”.
He said the interim military authorities had to either insist on defending the attack or declare responsibility for it and send officers perpetrating it to court.
The day after the June 3rd bloodshed, Sudanese political forces declared that it would hold elections after its nine month rule, handing over power to a civilian administration.
The council said it would be the guarantor of fairness of the elections. It shunned demands by political forces to make an immediate transfer of power.
“We cannot hold elections now, because there is no government running the affairs of our country,” Daqlo said.
He sought to allay the fears of his country’s revolutionaries by saying that Bashir’s formerly ruling National Congress Party would be excluded from the elections.
Daqlo added that the army did not come to rule, neither is it ready to.
“We will be the guarantors of the transitional phase,” Daqlo said.
Nevertheless, the new election deadline puts the military council, in the hurry to pick up the reins of Sudan, between the hammer of an angry international community and the anvil of domestic political forces.
After Bashir’s downfall on April 11th, the African Union gave Sudan’s military council 15 days to transfer power to civilians.
This was later extended to more than three months, due to interference by Egypt, whose president, the current head of the African Union, convinced the union that three months were far from enough for the council to put things in order for a transfer of power.
On June 6th, the Peace and Security Council, the decision-making body of the African Union, suspended Sudan’s membership in it and said it considered imposing sanctions on Sudanese officials implicated in the massacre outside the general army command in downtown Khartoum.
Most importantly, the political forces which brought Bashir down, including the professional unions, insist that the nine months are yet another attempt by Sudan’s interim military rulers to lengthen the transitional period and get around their demands with the aim of staying in power for good.
“The military council does not have any legitimacy to decide the course of the transitional phase,” said Sudanese political activist Noureddine Babakr. “This is why nobody agrees to its new election deadline.”