KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s alliance of opposition and protest groups said on Monday that it would push ahead with a general two-day strike starting on Tuesday, in an escalation of tensions with the ruling transitional military council over the move to democracy.
Talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) alliance are at a standstill after weeks of negotiations over who will have the upper hand after the ouster of long-time president Omar al-Bashir last month, civilians or the military.
Wagdy Saleh, a representative of a coalition within the DFCF, told a news conference called by the alliance that the TMC had demanded a two-thirds majority, of eight to three, on the sovereign council that will lead the country.
The deputy head of the TMC, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, said earlier on Monday that the council was ready to hand over power swiftly, but said the opposition was not being serious about sharing power and wanted to confine the military to a ceremonial role.
“By God, their slogans cheated us. I swear we were honest with them 100%,” Hemedti said at a dinner with police. “That’s why, by God Almighty, we will not hand this country except to safe hands.”
Hemedti said the military council respects many members of the opposition movement, including Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister, who was overthrown by Bashir.
Mahdi, who heads the Umma Party that is part of the alliance, rejected the strike on Sunday.
However, his son, Al-Sadeeq Sadiq al-Mahdi, told Al Arabiya TV after Hemedti’s remarks: “Our stated position is not a rejection of the principle of strike, but our logic is that there is no need to escalate now.”
The TMC has suggested that if an agreement cannot be reached between the two sides, elections should be held.
“We are not saying we will not negotiate,” Hemedti said. “But we have to guarantee that all the Sudanese people are participating in the matter.”
“We do not cheat, nor do we want power,” Hemedti said, adding that elections could be held in as little as three months in order to “…choose a government from the Sudanese people.”
Mubarak Ardol, who represents the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, said at the news conference that it was essential to have an accurate and transparent census before elections can be held because millions of Sudanese remain displaced or refugees and would therefore be excluded.
“Elections cannot be held in the current situation,” Ardol said.
The DFCF said Tuesday’s strike would encompass public and private enterprise, including the civil aviation, railway, petroleum, banking, communications and health sectors.
If an agreement is not reached with the TMC, the DFCF will escalate by calling for an open strike and indefinite civil disobedience until power is handed to civilians, Saleh said.
The military ousted and detained Bashir on April 11, ending his 30-year rule after 16 weeks of street protests against him spearheaded by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, part of the DFCF.
Hemedti said on Monday: “These people’s goal is for us to hand over to them and return to our barracks.”
Reporting by Hesham Hajlai; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall