Thousands rally in Sudan, calling for new judicial appointments
Thousands of Sudanese rallied in the capital Khartoum on Thursday in the largest protest since the country's transitional government was announced, demanding the chief of the judiciary and general prosecutor be removed because of alleged ties to ousted autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan's Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the umbrella coalition representing different pro-democracy parties and groups, called for a "million-man march" to pressure the joint civilian-military Sovereign Council - formed last month as part of a power-sharing deal between protesters and the generals - to appoint judges known for their competence as well as political impartiality.
The generals had previously dismissed nominations put forward by pro-democracy protesters for Sudan's two top judicial posts.
"Judicial and legal reforms should be a top priority during the transitional period; however, we have seen inaction on the part of sovereign council to appoint a new head of the judiciary and a new general prosecutor," Ahmed Rabie, a leader of the Sudanese Professionals' Association, said. The group has spearheaded protests since al-Bashir was still in power.
The women of Sudan's protests
Women have been the driving force behind the months of protest that resulted in the ousting of Sudan's long-term president, Omar al-Bashir, in a coup d'état. They continue to protest for peaceful change and are willing to accept great hardships along the way.
Alaa Salah, the woman who became famous worldwide when an image of her leading chants to a crowd went viral
The woman who came back: Khadija Saleh lived abroad for six years. She returned to her native country in March in order to take part in the protests for a new Sudan. "I left my safe place because I want a better future for this country," says the 41-year-old.
The activist: when security forces violently broke up a protest camp close to the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum on 3 June, 53-year-old Nahid Gabralla was beaten and threatened with rape. "My daughter deserves to live in a good country. That is why we are fighting for a democratic Sudan."
The supporter: Hadia Hasaballah works for an NGO that supports victims of the violence that took place on 3 June. Eye witnesses and activists have reported that women were sexually abused on that day. There is no official confirmation that these acts were perpetrated. "No Sudanese woman will openly admit that she was raped because of the stigma attached" says Hasaballah.
The silent warrior: during the Bashir era, there were strict moral codes for women. They could be arrested simply for wearing trousers. Mahi Aba-Yazid was wearing trousers when she was in the protest camp in Khartoum. She too was beaten. The 35-year-old believes that the reason was more the clothes she was wearing and less her devotion to the cause
The independently minded woman: "I don't want to wear a headscarf, but it is not my decision," says 23-year-old student Duha Mohmed. She would like to have the right to wear what she likes. This was one of the reasons she took part in the protests.
The optimist: Nagda Mansour spent 75 days in prison because she took part in a demonstration in December. The 39-year-old translator finds it problematic to negotiate with the military about change because of the army's role in the war in Darfur. Nevertheless, she considers the agreement to initially share power with the military to be "a beginning, not the end."
The mother: shocked by the violence, Manal Farah asked her son not to take part in the protests. The 22-year-old student was killed. When he started university, her son began to ask why there was so much corruption in Sudan. He felt passionately that change was necessary for a new Sudan. "I pray that my son's dreams will come true."
The Sovereign Council, comprised of five military members and six civilians, is expected to rule the country along with a cabinet and a legislative body for a little more than three years. Last week, prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, a long-time economist, announced the make-up of his cabinet after several weeks of deliberations.
"The Sudanese revolution does not only aim at changing a president or bringing in new ministers but it aims at restructuring the Sudanese state," said Rabie. "Hence, it is illogical to have officials belonging to the ancient regime on top of the state's civil and judicial apparatuses."
Both incumbent judiciary chief and public prosecutor were appointed by the military council, which took over the helm of state after ousting al-Bashir in April. Under the terms of the power-sharing deal, the military council was dissolved and replaced by the Sovereign Council.
"This rally is an important step toward the restructuring of the judicial system, so that we can embark on a period of transitional justice where leaders of the old regime as well as those responsible for the massacre of protesters after Bashir's ousting could be prosecuted," said Rasha Awad, editor of the online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer.
The power-sharing agreement capped several months of negotiations and tension between the generals and protester movement. In early June, talks were suspended after a deadly military clampdown on the protesters' main sit-in in the capital left more than a hundred killed. The attack had remained a thorny issue even after both parties resumed talks.
In Thursday's rallies, protesters waving Sudanese flags chanted "the people want the martyrs to be avenged", in reference to those killed during the crackdown. They also raised banners reading "the appointment of a new judiciary chief and public prosecutor is a revolutionary demand."
Awad noted that the generals had previously dismissed nominations put forward by pro-democracy protesters for the nation's two top judicial posts.
"These rallies are basically addressing the military members inside the sovereign council because those members do not share the same views as Sudanese revolutionaries," she said. (AP)