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Sudan protesters tone down demands in standoff with military

A protester carries a Sudanese flag as they chant against military rule and demand the prosecution of former officials, at the Armed Forces Square, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday April 28, 2019. (AP/Salih Basheer)
Sudanese protesters have toned down some of their demands in an attempt to ease tensions with the ruling military council that took over the country after ousting President Omar Al-Bashir last month.

They have been holding a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, and have been negotiating with the council on the makeup of a transitional sovereign council for an interim period. But the talks have become deadlocked as both sides insist they should have the majority of seats in the transitional council.

On Thursday, the Forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change, a coalition led by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) that has organized the protests, released a new proposal that drops a key issue of contention between the two sides — the allocation of seats in the transitional council.

The protesters had earlier proposed an 11-member council with three seats for the military, which in turn pushed for a 10-member council with just three civilians.

The new proposal instead offers a blueprint for a four-year-transitional period, including the makeup of an interim Cabinet and Parliament.

“The number of seats has been a contentious issue with the military council,” Rashid Al-Said Ya’coub, an SPA leader, said. “So we left the matter open for negotiation and this is a sign of goodwill on our part vis-à-vis the military council.”

The military council promised to respond to the new proposal in two days, according to Ahmed Rabie, another SPA leader.

Rabie denied allegations that the protesters were backtracking, and said they would still demand a civilian majority on the council.

Separately, Sudan’s prosecutor general has ordered the questioning of Bashir over money laundering and “financing terrorism.”

Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades. During his rule the country was placed on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism over its alleged links with militants.

Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 to 1996. In October 2017, Washington lifted a 20-year-old trade embargo imposed on Sudan, but kept the country on the terrorism blacklist.

Last month, Sudan’s army ruler Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found €7 million, $350,000 and 5 billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million) during a search at Bashir’s home.