Sudanese protest at military HQ, Al Jazeera office ordered shut

Update: May, 31/2019 - 09:41


Thursday's march by Sudanese women was the latest in a string of moves by protestors to pressure the ruling generals to hand power to civilians. PhotoAFP

KHARTOUM Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Sudanese military headquarters in Khartoum late Thursday to pressure the country's ruling generals to cede power, as security officers ordered Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera to close its office in the capital.

Chanting slogans in favour of a civilian government, singing and waving Sudanese flags, the mostly young protesters gathered after dusk to join a weeks-long sit-in outside the sprawling military complex.

The site has become the focal point of the country's protest movement, which saw longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir ousted in April and has since been calling for the generals who replaced him to hand over power to civilians.

"We're here to confirm our basic demand for a civilian authority in the transitional period until we can guarantee a real democratic transition," said Mohamed Hasan, a young protester outside the military headquarters.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement had called for people to gather at the site on Thursday for a "million-strong march".

"The goals of our revolution will be reached by peacefulness and not by violence," Wajdi Saleh, a spokesman for the protest group, said as he addressed the crowd.

Meanwhile, security officials told Al Jazeera the military council was closing the network's Khartoum office and revoking work permits for its correspondents and staff, without giving a reason.

"They told us that the military council had decided to close the Al Jazeera network's office and withdraw its licence," bureau director Al-Musallami Al-Kabbashi told AFP. "We gave them the material and the office."

The news channel, which regularly broadcasts footage of the demonstrations in Sudan, is funded by Doha, a close ally of former president Bashir.

- 'We want a civil state' -

The latest demonstration came the day after a two-day general strike to pressure the military council to resume suspended talks on the future shape of a transitional authority.

The two sides had agreed on many aspects of a political transition, including its duration and the bodies to oversee it.

But negotiations broke down over the question of whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or military figure.

The army ousted Bashir on April 11 after months of protests against his autocratic, three-decade rule.

Thousands of protesters have remained camped outside the sprawling Khartoum military compound ever since.

The generals, backed by key Arab powers, have resisted calls from African and Western governments to hand over the reins of power.

Hundreds of women marched through central Khartoum earlier in the day calling for a civilian government.

As they made their way through the capital to the sit-in, they chanted: "Freedom, peace, justice, civil government is the people's choice!"

"The Sudanese woman demands... justice, equality democracy, a civil government and fair government," said Hoyam al-Taj, a journalist in her thirties taking part in the march.

Nada Hashem, a young mother in brightly coloured traditional Sudanese dress, agreed.

"We want a civil state that will guarantee our rights as women and guarantee us a dignified life," she told AFP.

The head of the ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend summits with Arab and Muslim leaders.

A statement from the council said that "several bilateral meetings are planned".

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