The head of Sudan’s new ruling military council, General Awad Ibn Ouf, announced his resignation on Friday, less than 24 hours after being sworn in, following the ouster of long-time president Omar al-Bashir.
His move came shortly after the council’s political chief Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin told Arab and African diplomats at a meeting broadcast on state television: “This is not a military coup, but taking the side of the people.”
Ouf’s departure was an apparent sign of confusion among the north African country’s new leaders after Thursday’s ousting of iron-fisted Bashir.
But there was jubilation at the news on the streets of Khartoum.
Tens of thousands of protestors had kept up a vigil at the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital on Friday angrily demanding that the military make way for a civilian government.
“I hereby announce my resignation as head of the Transitional Military Council,” Ibn Ouf said in an address to the nation, announcing he had chosen General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Abdulrahman to replace him.
He said he trusted in Abdulrahman’s “experience and suitability I trust to bring this ship to a safe shore”.
The Sudanese Professionals Association which has spearheaded the nationwide protest campaign hailed Ibn Ouf’s departure as “a victory of the people’s will”.
The demonstrations against Bashir’s 30-year rule first erupted in December, triggered by a tripling of the bread prices in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
But vast crowds have been thronging outside the army headquarters since Saturday in unprecedented scenes.
Many were preparing to defy a night-time curfew for the second time, denouncing Ibn Ouf’s leadership as a military coup.
That was denied by Abdin who said the transitional military council, due to stay in power for two years, would “open dialogue with political parties”.
There “will be a civilian government and we will not intervene in its composition,” he vowed.
He also appealed to foreign diplomats for “your donations, as we have some economic issues,” alluding to fuel and food shortages.
“The role of the military council is to protect the security and stability of the country,” Abdin added.
Thousands of men and women, dressed in white, again braved the searing Sudanese heat on Friday to offer prayers outside the sprawling army complex which has become a focus point of the protests since Saturday.
The imam leading the prayers was draped in the Sudanese flag.
The police said 16 people had been killed in live fire in Khartoum in the past two days, without elaborating.
Hussein Mohamed, an elderly man from Omdurman, said he was attending the protest for the first time in response to a call to hold Friday prayers there.
“It is too, too hot but I’m impressed by what our young men and women are doing here,” he said. “I’ll surely come again.”
Bashir, who took charge in the northeast African country in a 1989 military coup, remained in custody Friday, but Abdin said the council would never extradite him or any other Sudanese citizen.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued two arrest warrants for Bashir for suspected genocide and war crimes.
The military council had announced a two-year transition period, but Sudan’s UN envoy told the Security Council in New York that this could be shortened “depending on developments on the ground and agreements between stakeholders”.