What next for Sudan, asks Bishop Baines

18 April 2019

President Omar al-Bashir is forced out of power

PA

The chairman of the Political Committee of Sudan’s transitional military council, Omer Zainal-Abdin, speaks at a press conference in Khartoum, last Friday

The chairman of the Political Committee of Sudan’s transitional military council, Omer Zainal-Abdin, speaks at a press conference in Khartoum, last Fr...

THOSE who have forced the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, to step down should be aware that it is “easier to break something down than replace it”, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has warned.

On Thursday of last week, the Sudanese army announced that it had removed and detained Mr al-Bashir, who had been in power for three decades, and would set up a transitional military council to run the country.

After that announcement and protests, the head of the council and the country’s intelligence services have been forced to stand down.

PAPeople protest outside the Sudanese army’s headquarters in Khartoum, last Friday, against the transitional military council

Bishop Baines, who is the lead bishop on Sudan, said on Monday: “The younger people were calling it ‘revolution’, and so one of the questions I was asking people was ‘What’s next?’ It is easier to break down something than restore it — you can break down an edifice overnight, but what you put in its place takes time.

“The key thing is that al-Bashir has gone. There have been more resignations since — this means that the next question is whether civil society can provide a competent transitional government, or the military will have to step in.”

Protesters who were camped outside Sudan’s defence ministry refused to move, calling for a “transfer of power to a civilian government”.

Diplomats from Western countries, including the United States and the UK, met the military council earlier this week, and the African Union issued a statement which called for the army to give way to a civilian government within two weeks.

The council met members of political parties on Sunday, and urged them to agree on an “independent figure” to be Prime Minister, AFP reported.

Bishop Baines said: “What we learned about the protests were that they were being announced very late, in a move designed to stretch the security forces. When they began to convene in the centre of Khartoum, there must have been conversations with the army.”

Leeds diocese has a link to the five dioceses in Sudan. Bishop Baines said: “The churches are safe and watching with interest, there is more chance the Church can help now than there ever was under al-Bashir.

“If you are going to have freedom of religion, you have to make space for all people, and make concessions. You have to make space for minorities. A new government, a civilian transitional government, would probably be more representative of civil society.”

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