Sudan’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir appeared to have been removed as president on Thursday following months of on-and-off popular protests that culminated in clashes between his loyalist security branches and the uniformed armed forces, pan-Arab media reported.
During a tense dramatic morning that saw the country’s state broadcaster seized by the military and protesters mass in front of the armed forces headquarters, Mr Bashir’s position remained unclear.
A government minister said the president had stepped down and sources said his residence was surrounded.
Adel Mahjoub Hussein, the minister of production and economic resources in North Darfur, told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that “there are consultations to form a military council to take over power after President Bashir stepped down”.
Sudanese sources confirmed the report and told Reuters Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”.
The army alerted the public in a 5am statement that warned of an impending announcement.
Reports emerged that the airport in Khartoum had been seized, Mr Bashir and other senior officials had been arrested, and that a transitional council headed by defence minister, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf had been formed, according to sources cited by Dubai-based Al-Arabiya.
Doha-based Al Jazeera reported that armed forces informed Mr Bashir “he was no longer president”.
None of the reports could be confirmed. For hours state television played patriotic and martial music as the nation of 41 million people waited and thousands amassed at the main protest site outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.
Mr Bashir has ruled Sudan for 30 years, taking power in a 1989 coup.
He is wanted on international charges of genocide for his role in directing violence against non-Arab minorities in Sudan’s Darfur region.
But he had recently rehabilitated his stature among Western leaders by sidling up to their Arabian Peninsula, cutting the country’ ties with Iran and supplying young men to fight the Saudi and United Arab Emirates‘ war in Yemen.
At the request of Gulf allies, the administration of US president Donald Trump removed Sudan from its list of sanctioned nations last year.
Apparent moves against him by the armed forces came quickly after his loyalist security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least five uniformed military officials protecting them outside their compound in Khartoum on Tuesday.
His reported departure comes little more than a week after mass protests forced out Algeria’s longtime president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a manoeuvre also orchestrated by the country’s armed forces.
In both cases, the military remains the core, premier power within the state, and removing an unpopular political front man preserves the regime without bringing about fundamental changes in governance or patronage.
But both cases also show the continued demands for democratic change in Arab nations long dominated by authoritarian military rulers.
“The overthrow of two entrenched dictators in less than two weeks reminds us again of the fragility of authoritarian government in the region and the widespread demand for an end to corrupt and stagnant rulers who fail to respect the rights and aspirations of their peoples,” Timothy Kaldas, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told The Independent.