Date: Friday, 12 April 2019
One day after announcing the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese military officials who have taken power said they had no intention of extraditing the deposed president, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges including genocide and crimes against humanity, connected to atrocities in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
But he will be tried in Sudan, an army official said on Friday at a news conference in Khartoum, the capital, according to The Associated Press.
Thousands of Sudanese protesters camped outside the country’s military headquarters on Friday, defying an overnight curfew that followed the dramatic ouster of Mr. al-Bashir by his top military lieutenants on Thursday.
Mr. al-Bashir’s sudden exit was the culmination of nearly four months of countrywide protests led by young professionals frustrated by the economic chaos and international isolation of Mr. al-Bashir’s often brutal 30-year rule. Those protests gained strength over the weekend, as huge crowds began to gather for a sit-in outside the military headquarters on April 6. At least 35 people have been killed since the start of the sit-in, the Sudanese Doctors Association said in a series of Twitter posts.
But the coup on Thursday installed a close aide of Mr. al-Bashir, Lt. Gen. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, as interim leader of the vast, impoverished African country for what he said would be a transitional period of two years, during which a military council would run the country.
The announcement has angered protesters, who are demanding a swift transition to civilian rule. Some argue that little has changed so far.
“They removed a thief and brought a thief,” was among the slogans that rang out across the protest site on Thursday.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that organized many of the recent protests, said on Twitter that it had rejected the army’s statement.
“This refusal is based on the Sudanese people’s experience in dealing with all types of deceptions and comedic and absurdist theater, especially from the current regime that began its deception of the Sudanese people and the homeland with a great fiction,” the group said.
“We will resist the state of emergency and the curfew and all the procedures that the coup plotters have announced,” it said. “We will be victorious as we were in the past over all types of violence, fear-mongering and terrorization that the regime tries to use on the people.”
In a second address Friday morning, hours before the weekly prayers that are likely to be a rallying moment for the protesters, General Auf attempted to accommodate their demands by saying that the transition period could be as short as a month if it were managed “without chaos.”
The military “doesn’t want to force anything on the people” and wants to create an atmosphere for dialogue, he said.
Another military official, identified by The A.P. as Col. Gen. Omar Zein Abedeen, said that Mr. al-Bashir would not be extradited. According to The A.P., he said an extradition would be “an ugly mark on Sudan.”
For decades, Mr. al-Bashir courted popularity at home with a folksy image even as he became seen as a villainous figure abroad. His rule survived famine, wars, American bombs and genocide accusations only to be undone by public fury over economic mismanagement.
International rights groups and celebrity activists, including the actor George Clooney, seized on his downfall to renew their longstanding demands that Mr. al-Bashir be brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which since 2009 has sought to arrest him on war crimes charges including genocide, rape and torture.
The United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, called on Friday for Sudan’s new leaders to cooperate with the international court.
Many are also pushing for the prosecution of those responsible for the brutal tactics that Sudan’s security and intelligence services have used since December to try to suppress antigovernment protests.
Security forces firing rifles and shotguns killed more than 60 protesters through mid-March, before the mass demonstration in front of the army headquarters that began on Saturday, Physicians for Human Rights, a United States-based network of medical professionals, said in a report issued this month. It described security forces dragging people from their homes and beating them, entering hospitals firing weapons and tear gas and often targeting doctors.
Citing estimates of 40 to 70 people killed in the protests since December, the United Nations said those responsible should be held to account, Ms. Bachelet said.
There remains another pressing question concerning Mr. al-Bashir: Where is he?
He has not been seen in public for days, and the only word on his status came from General Auf, the new military leader, who said on Thursday that he was in “a safe place.”
One Sudanese official said he had been told that Mr. al-Bashir was being held under guard at his residence inside the military compound in Khartoum where a sprawling throng of protesters is massed at the gate.
But rumors and speculation abounded in Khartoum on Friday about the former leader’s whereabouts.
Few expect that Mr. al-Bashir’s misfortune will land him in a foreign courtroom any time soon.
Allies like Saudi Arabia, which are not signatories to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, could offer Mr. al-Bashir a comfortable exile, said Magdi el-Gizouli, a Sudan analyst at the United States Institute of Peace. The notorious Ugandan leader Idi Amin fled to Saudi Arabia after his ouster in 1979 and died there in 2003.
Others question whether Mr. al-Bashir is really in detention.
“Our reading is that this is basically a pretend coup,” said Murithi Mutiga of the International Crisis Group in Nairobi. “General Auf is one of Bashir’s most trusted lieutenants. He was his chosen successor, and he positioned him in February when protests picked up pace. They have been together since 1989.
“Auf was one of the few he could trust with a transition, and his nomination to lead the military council is viewed as a transparent attempt to preserve the regime.”
Mr. al-Bashir’s own history contains precedent for such a ruse. When he seized power in Sudan in 1989, he initially claimed to have detained Hassan al-Turabi, an Islamist leader who was seen as one of the masterminds of the coup that had brought him into office, in an apparent effort to disguise the Islamist character of the coup.
Mr. al-Turabi was quickly released and later emerged as one of the most powerful figures in Sudan, widely seen as the true power behind Mr. al-Bashir. They fell out in 1999 and Mr. al-Bashir cast him into prison for four years, cementing his own dominance.