Sudan coup leader was Omar al Bashir's choice

Friday April 12 2019

Sudan's head of the High Council of Armed Forces Lt-Gen Awad Mohamed Ahmed ibn Auf. PHOTO | AFP


In former defence minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Auf and now head of the ‘The High Council of Armed Forces’ which ousted President Omar al-Bashir Thursday, the former president may have succeeded himself.

Soon after the protests organised by the Sudanese Professionals Association began a week ago, a distressed Mr Bashir intimated to his inner circle that Mr Auf was his choice for a successor.

So it was no surprise that after Mr Auf announced that the military had taken power for two years, had suspended the constitution and declared an emergency for three months, protesters vowed to stay put, defying a curfew announced by the usurpers.

Despite enabling the ouster of Bashir, the new administration falls short of the demand for a civilian transition government which protesters, stung by three decades of worsening economy and authoritarian rule, had called for.

“The military takeover has recycled the same faces and the same people are in charge. People should not stop protesting,” the association said in a statement on Twitter issued together with other opposition groups. The association called on people to remain at the sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

Thousands of protestors heeded the call to stage a sit-in outside Khartoum army headquarters in defiance of the curfew as pressure piled on the military council 's to hand over to civilian rule.


Broad appeal for civilian rule

Washington, through state department spokesman Robert Palladino asked Khartoum to "exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government".

But the African Union whose opposition to recent coups has cornered the military to hasty retreats appeared less decisive saying Bashir's military ouster, was "not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people."

It did not announce any course of action or whether it would engage the coup leaders.

The European Union urged the army to carry out a "swift" handover to civilian rule while UN chief UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a transition that would meet the "democratic aspirations" of the Sudanese people.

So far only Egypt, whose protests led to military rule before civilian rule was restored, has supported the Sudan army for taking over power.

The foreign ministry expressed in a statement ‘full support’ for the ‘brotherly’ Sudanese people and their ‘loyal’ army to "overcome the challenges of this critical stage... in order to achieve stability, prosperity and development."

The statement came in the week that US President Donald Trump called the visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi who wants to stay in office until 2034 ‘a great president’ despite concerns over human rights abuses.

With the US also taking a visibly withdrawn role in the second phase of the Arab Spring the international resolve to enforce a return to civilian rule in Sudan appears suspect.

The opposition Sudanese Congress Party called for the establishment of a joint military and civilian council to rule for a four-year transitional period with civilians holding executive powers.

Crimes against humanity in Darfur

Mr Auf and his deputy army chief of staff Kamal AbdelMarouf have now the arduous task of proving to the world that the fear of a continuation of Bashir’s highhandedness are unfounded.

Among Mr Auf’s opening statements was that Bashir had been arrested and was in a safe place in Khartoum. Yet Bashir, has warrants of arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on his head over genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Surrendering him to face trial would be a good starting point. Mr Auf, however, faces a similar predicament and has ruled out extraditing Mr Bashir.

Instead, he said, Bashir would be tried in Sudan.

A long serving deputy to Mr Bashir, Auf, 65, is among individuals sanctioned by the US over the Darfur ethnic conflict.

The US accuses him of having been the link between the government and the Janjaweed militias.

A UN mission in 2005 listed him among those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Darfur after which the US blocked his assets in May 2007.

He was then the head of military intelligence and security.

During his tenure as defence minister the Sudanese army has reportedly improved its artillery and rocket system; a weaponry that could encourage him to be belligerent.

Few see him handing over power to a civilian government after the promised two years of transition although he said his government would have ‘representation of the people.’

South Sudan

Another ball up in the air for the international community is the revitalised peace process of South Sudan where Bashir was the facilitator and deal broker.

Already, there are fears in Juba that the peace deal could falter with Bashir out of the scene.

"Juba puts activities on halt over Sudan's crisis,” South Sudan cabinet minister Dr Elia Lomoro commented on Bashir exit.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar renewed commitments to the peace process Thursday after a two day retreat in the Vatican during which Pope Francis kissed their feet.

Bashir was forced out of power by a popular uprising that started on 19 December 19, last year. That it was not until this week, however, that the army turned against him.

Additional reporting by Agencies.