, Khartoum, Sudan, May 16 – Sudanese protesters voiced regret Thursday at an army decision to suspend crucial talks on installing civilian rule but vowed to press on with a sit-in despite being targeted in fresh violence.
Army generals and protest leaders had been expected to come to an agreement on Wednesday over the make-up of a new body to govern Sudan for three years.
The issue is the thorniest to have come up in ongoing talks on reinstating civilian rule after the generals took over following the ouster of longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir last month.
But in the early hours of Thursday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced the talks had been suspended for 72 hours as the security in the capital had deteriorated.
He demanded that during that period the protesters must dismantle roadblocks in Khartoum, open bridges and railway lines connecting the capital and “stop provoking security forces”.
The Alliance for Freedom and Change, the group that is leading the protest movement and negotiating the transfer of power with the army rulers, said the move was “regretable”.
“It ignores the developments achieved in negotiations so far… and the fact that Wednesday’s meeting was to finalise the agreement, which would have stopped the escalations such as roadblocks.”
The talks began on Monday and achieved major breakthroughs, but have also been marred by fresh violence that left five protesters and a major dead and many more wounded from gunshots.
Protesters allege that members of the paramilitary group the Rapid Support Force were behind the violence.
But Burhan, in his statement broadcast live on state television, defended the force, saying it had taken the side of the people during the uprising that toppled Bashir.
The protest movement said the generals wanted the demonstrators to restrict themselves to the sit-in area where thousands have camped for weeks in central Khartoum, demanding civilian rule.
The protest movement vowed to press on with the “sit-in outside the army headquarters and across the country”.
On Wednesday the two sides were to finalise the composition of the new sovereign council which has been the toughest part of the negotiations.
Both have so far proposed different compositions of the body which is expected to take all key decisions concerning national issues.
The generals want it to be military-led, while the protesters insist on a majority civilian body.