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My Forces Refused to Shoot at the Protesters, Says Sudanese General Hemedti

My Forces Refused to Shoot at the Protesters, Says Sudanese General Hemedti
Sudan: Hemedti's forces appear to have acquitted themselves better during the protests against his longtime patron al-Bashir, which erupted in December over rising bread prices and rapidly escalated into a popular uprising.

He says his forces, like the regular army, refused al-Bashir's orders to violently disperse a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum established on April 6.
The military removed al-Bashir from power five days later, ending a 30-year reign marked by repression and civil war.

The protesters have remained in the streets , demanding that the military rapidly hand power over to a civilian government. But while the protesters have forced several officers to resign from the council after complaining they were too close to the former regime, there have not been widespread calls for Hemedti to step down.

"Many people, including some of Sudan's finest democrats, consider him a counterweight to the Islamic movement," el-Gizouli said. "A lot of people in Khartoum would be ready to tolerate him for a while. I'm not sure what they can do once this ends."

In the weeks since al-Bashir's overthrow, Hemedti has met with Western ambassadors and other envoys in his office in the presidential residence. He has said he has no interest in seeking higher office and has called for a government of technocrats.

"We want a real democracy, fair and free elections," he said Saturday. "Whoever the Sudanese choose will rule."

But he has also warned the protesters against any further "chaos," hinting late last month that the military may use force if the unrest continues.

In Darfur, government forces violently dispersed a rally earlier this month outside a military facility, setting off clashes in which an 18-year-old protester was killed.

The protesters in Khartoum have meanwhile expressed mounting frustration with the military council, accusing it of dragging its feet in order to keep much of al-Bashir's regime intact. As tensions escalate, Hemedti's balancing act could prove more challenging.

"Hemedti has been thinking that he is one of the leaders of the change because he was neutral in the protests," said Shamayel el-Nour, an activist with the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the demonstrations. "The protesters recognize his refusal to use force against them, but in Darfur he is viewed as a war criminal."