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Sudan crisis: Talks stall as military demands barricades removed

Protesters erect a barricade along a street during demonstrations in central Khartoum, Sudan May 15, 2019Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Barricades have been set up across the capital, Khartoum, but the military says they hinder negotiations

Talks on moving Sudan towards civilian rule have been suspended for three days by the country’s military leaders, who demand protesters clear roadblocks.

In a televised statement, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said barricades outside a designated zone in Khartoum should be removed.

The setback comes hours after the TMC and the opposition agreed a three-year transition period to civilian rule.

Shots were fired on Wednesday as soldiers tried to clear barricades.

Protesters in Khartoum said at least nine people were wounded, but that figure could not be verified. Similar violence on Monday left at least six people dead and protesters say those responsible must be held to account.

Sudan has been run by the military council since long-time President Omar al-Bashir was toppled last month, but it has struggled to return the country to normality.

Protesters emboldened by Mr Bashir’s downfall have continued to stage a huge sit-in outside military headquarters in the capital, demanding full civilian government.

What do the two sides say?

In his televised address, TMC leader Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan said talks were being suspended “to help prepare an atmosphere for completing the deal”.

He called on protesters to dismantle roadblocks, open bridges and “stop provoking security forces”.

Earlier, Rashid al-Sayid, a spokesman for the opposition Alliance for Freedom and Change, told AFP news agency: “The military council has told us that the protesters must dismantle the barricades and go back to the sit-in.”

Another opposition leader, Ahmed Rabie, confirmed the talks had stalled, saying the military wanted roads in Khartoum and elsewhere reopened before it returned to the negotiating table.

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Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some protesters were injured in clashes in Khartoum on Wednesday

What has already been agreed?

At a joint news conference on Tuesday night, TMC spokesman Lt Gen Yasser al-Atta said a deal had been struck for a three-year transition period to civilian administration.

He said a final agreement on power sharing would be signed with the opposition alliance within 24 hours. That would include forming a sovereign council which will rule the country until elections.

Gen Atta said the opposition alliance would have two-thirds of the seats on a 300-member transitional legislative council, while the rest would be taken by other groups.

Earlier, protest movement spokesman Taha Osman said the sides had agreed on the structure of future authorities – a sovereign council, a cabinet and a legislative body.

What is the background?

In December, demonstrators took to the streets over a government decision to triple the price of bread. The protests soon grew into widespread anger against the president’s 30-year rule.

Five weeks into the protests, on 17 January, witnesses said state forces had fired live ammunition at protesters and killed a doctor.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionDozens of people were injured in the clashes

He had been treating injured protesters in his home in Khartoum when police reportedly fired tear gas into the building.

He was one of dozens of people killed during the anti-government unrest.

As anger mounted, protesters staged a sit-in from 6 April outside military headquarters in Khartoum to demand the army force the president out.

Five days later, the president was overthrown by the military.

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A military council assumed power on 11 April, but demonstrators stayed put, insisting that it transfer authority to a civilian administration.

Initially, talks between the ruling generals and the protest organisers had shown little sign of progress.

Road to transition

Image copyright AFP
  • 19 December 2018 – Protests erupt after fuel and bread price rises announced
  • 20 December – Demonstrators in the capital, Khartoum, strike an anti-government tone chanting “freedom, peace, justice”
  • 22 February 2019 – President Omar al-Bashir declares a state of emergency and dissolves the government
  • 24 February – Protests continue as security forces respond by firing live bullets
  • 6 April – Activists begin sit-in at military headquarters in Khartoum vowing not to move until Mr Bashir steps down
  • 11 April – army generals announce that Mr Bashir has been toppled but sit-in continues as people demand civilian rule
  • 17 April – Mr Bashir is taken to a prison in Khartoum
  • 20 April – Talks between the military rulers and civilian representatives begin
  • 13 May – Shooting outside the military headquarters leaves six people dead
  • 14 May – Military and civilians announce a deal on a three-year transition period

Where is Omar al-Bashir?

The ousted leader has not been seen in public since he was removed from office.

He was reportedly moved from the presidential palace to a high security prison in Khartoum, but the BBC has not verified these reports.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Bashir has not been photographed since he was ousted from power

On Monday, Mr Bashir was charged with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters.

The charges stem from an inquiry into the death of the doctor shot dead during the 17 January protests.

He is also facing an investigation over allegations of money laundering and terror financing.

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