Army officers in Sudan ousted President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after months of street protests, but demonstrators quickly rejected a transition plan that called for a transitional body to hold power for the next two years.
Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, surrounded by Sudanese flags, announced on state television that Bashir’s 30-year rule was over. The 75-year-old dictator, who has been under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide since 2009, was placed on house arrest. His supporters were unable to flee the country due to a 24-hour airspace shutdown.
On the streets of Khartoum, elated Sudanese protesters ripped down posters bearing their former leader’s image. But it remained uncertain whether April 11 would mark the beginning of democracy in Sudan or the transition from one dictatorship to another—or something worse.
Ibn Auf said a transitional council would lead the country for two years but did not offer details. The defense minister is himself under U.S. sanctions for his role in the Sudanese government’s genocide in Darfur.
“This is a recycled coup which will not be welcomed at all,” said Sara Abdelgalil, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association. She said Ibn Auf’s statement was “far from the expectations of the people of Sudan … which is the handover of power peacefully from the regime, unconditionally, and a civil transitional government.”
Amgad Fareid Eltayeb, a Sudanese political activist, described the event as a “decorative coup.”
“The Sudanese people didn’t take the streets for four months to replace a tyrant with another,” he told Foreign Policy.
The Sudanese Professionals Association has been the driving force behind the protests. The group began coordinating marches in December over the price of bread and living conditions. Protests quickly spread across the country and grew to numbers Sudan had never seen under Bashir’s rule.
“In the past, democratic experiments were led by [Sudan’s] traditional political parties,” said Khalid Medani, a professor on African politics and Islam at McGill University. “This new mobilization is led by lawyers, doctors, and engineers and, of course, women’s organizations.”
Members of the association and other activists told FP that they refrained from calling on the army to join the protests until they peaked this past weekend.
“What the bargain seems to have been is to avert a civil war, for now,” said Alex De Waal, the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.