A top Sudanese general warned Saturday that he will not tolerate any vandalism at a planned mass protest, even as army rulers insisted they would hand over power to a civilian administration.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s warning came after the country’s umbrella protest movement called for a “million-man” march in Khartoum on Sunday against the generals who seized power after ousting longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir on April 11.
“There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don’t want problems,” Dagalo, the deputy head of the ruling military council, told a rally in an address broadcast by state television.
Dagalo commands the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which have been heavily deployed in Khartoum since a deadly crackdown on a protest camp on June 3 left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.
Dagalo, widely known by his nickname Himeidti, defended the heavy presence of security forces in the capital.
“The military forces who are deployed in Khartoum are there for the security of the people, not to disturb them,” he said.
In a separate statement, the military council said the protest movement would be held responsible for any violence on Sunday.
“The country is going through a serious crisis, and we will hold the Alliance for Freedom and Change entirely responsible if any soul is lost in the march” on Sunday, the council said.
‘Ready to cede power’
Later on Saturday, the chief of the military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, told a rally in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, that the generals were ready to give up power.
“We promise you that we will reach an agreement fast with our brothers in the Alliance for Freedom and Change and other political groups,” he said.
“We are ready to cede power today to an elected government that is acceptable to all the people of Sudan.”
But as he ended his speech, the crowd began chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule,” and “blood for blood,” two prominent slogans of the protest movement that has rocked the country.
In a separate development, a unit of RSF prevented protest leaders from holding a press conference to unveil plans for Sunday’s rally.
“Before we could start the press conference, three vehicles from RSF, full of armed men, came to our building and told us not to hold the press conference,” prominent protest leader Ahmed al-Rabie told AFP.
They “also ordered all the people there to leave the building,” he added.
Sunday’s mass rally will be the first attempt to mobilise protesters since the June 3 crackdown on a protest camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.
The violent dispersal of the sit-in came after talks between the generals and protest leaders collapsed over who should lead a new governing body — a civilian or a soldier.
The generals have so far resisted transferring power to a civilian administration.
Ethiopia and the African Union have mediated between the two sides and proposed a 15-member civilian-majority body to govern the country during a three-year transition period.
The generals said Friday the proposal could be a basis for resuming talks with protesters, although they expressed “some observations”, a spokesman said.
About 130 people have been killed since the June 3 crackdown, according to doctors close to the protest movement.
The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide on the day of the crackdown.
Earlier on Saturday, Dagalo also insisted the generals had no intention of holding on to power.
“The military council is just a guarantor,” he said.
“We are saying we want a civilian government, a government of competences, of independents. This is not political talk… This is true.”