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What's Next In Sudan


The head of Sudan's transitional government said today he was canceling a night curfew. He also ordered the release of all prisoners who'd been jailed under emergency laws by ousted President Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir was overthrown this week by the military after months of protests across the country. We spoke with Ahmed Soliman, a Horn of Africa research fellow at Chatham House in London, who says the fast-moving situation has taken everyone by surprise.

AHMED SOLIMAN: The protesters remain on the streets. They remain camped outside the army headquarters in Khartoum in large numbers - in the thousands.

There are rapid developments. I mean, even since yesterday, the new head of the military council that was announced, Awad Ibn Auf, former defense minister and vice president of Sudan who had ousted President Bashir, has himself been replaced, largely because of the demands on the street, but also due to internal rifts within the military and the armed forces. He has been replaced by the commander of the ground forces, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is seen as somebody who is not as politicized as Ibn Auf was.

And ultimately, the protesters in the street are calling for a civilian-led administration and want to keep the pressure on for the military to hand over and provide a short-term timeline to moving towards a popular-led administration.

SIMON: Al-Bashir was in power for three decades. What was there, you believe, about this particular moment that led the generals to get rid of him?

SOLIMAN: Well, we've had a full month of sustained attritional protest in Sudan, which has ebbed and flowed. There was a large anniversary last week where thousands more protesters came out onto the streets to celebrate the downfall of the Nimeiri regime in '85. And they got the military headquarters as a focal point for their protests. And this has really ramped up the pressure. This is a stone's throw away from the presidential palace. And, really, the demands were being heard in real time.

The focal point of the military headquarters made a real difference in changing the generals and the top of the army's mindsets, particularly as it was dividing the ranks of the army with the middle-ranked officers supporting the protesters and defending them from being removed.

SIMON: Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court. He's accused of organizing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region. Is it possible he'll be extradited and have to stand trial?

SOLIMAN: Well, the current military government of yesterday - the transition came out with an explicit statement under Ibn Auf that he would be tried domestically. He would not be extradited. This would be a process for the judicial courts in Sudan. He was clear on that.

Since then, we have a new general of the transitional military council, General Burhan. And we're awaiting his statement as to whether or not there'll be any changes in the approach taken by the military council. Otherwise, I'm sure there'll be some leverage placed by the international community to try and change that decision. Of course, many Sudanese will be unhappy if Bashir and some of his allies are given a soft landing.

SIMON: Do you see protests continuing?

SOLIMAN: Protests are likely to continue. And actually, the Sudanese Professional Association (ph) are calling for reinforcements for people to move to the military headquarters to prevent the national intelligence and Rapid Support Force militias removing them forcibly.

SIMON: Ahmed Soliman, research fellow at Chatham House in London, thanks so much for being with us.

SOLIMAN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.