Abdul Baqi Al-Zafer- AJ. Net
Aljazeera Net — Special
How did General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan become president by chance? Why did the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), General Mohamed Hamdan Hemeti, switch off his phones? Aljazeera Net is publishing new details and secrets from multiple sources about what happened in the last days of the reign of Field Marshal Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the early days of the military coup that ousted him on April 11, and the “second coup” that overthrew his deputy Awad Ibn Auf.
Where is Hemeti?
Field Marshal Bashir was wondering, “Where’s Hemeti?” It was Friday afternoon (5 April 2019), the last Friday of his long reign. At a massive social event in Khartoum, Hameti’s absence pointed to differences of view between him and the Chief of Staff, General Kamal Abdul Maarouf. Disagreements among top generals did not worry President Bashir, who was more concerned about the possibility of their agreement.
On Saturday, April 6, security service officers unexpectedly opened the western entrance of the vast square facing the army headquarters to the revolutionaries, who had been demonstrating for months in Khartoum and other cities demanding the fall of Bashir. The security service subsequently opened the other entrances as well.
On Monday, April 8, Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf and General Kamal Abdul Maarouf met with President Bashir to discuss an honourable solution whereby he steps down. The two generals’ proposal was diplomatic. They wanted to know the president’s state of mind. Bashir did not show enthusiasm for compromise.
Gosh: He contacted me on WhatsApp
On Tuesday evening, April 9, Bashir reassumed the leadership of his party after he had previously announced he would step down and delegated authority to Ahmed Haroun. At a party meeting, party officials levelled blame at each other.
During the meeting, a decision was made to break up the sit-in through a joint force representing the army, police, security service and the RSF. That was what the president wanted that evening.
On Wednesday, April 10, Engineer Mohammed Wadaa, the leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), received a brief call on his phone from Salah Gosh, the director of the National Security Service, asking him to communicate through WhatsApp. The director of the security service himself was afraid that the walls that he guarded had ears.
Gosh wanted to talk to Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the Umma Party, and other opposition leaders. Mohammed Wadaa played the role of mediator in arranging the meeting later that evening.
An unwanted guest
Gosh had contacted Bashir as part of the disinformation plan to tell him that he would meet Mahdi and opposition leaders to persuade them to withdraw from the army headquarters or they would be forced to do so. The president, who did not seem to trust his men especially Gosh, commanded Gosh to bring Ahmed Haroun with him. Gosh then sent a brief message to Wadaa saying that there was a “mine,” suggesting the presence of an unwanted guest.
At the meeting, Haroun was irritable and took a hard-line, especially after Mahdi told him of his intention to lead the protesters at the Friday prayers. Haroun threatened that the sit-in would be broken up with force if necessary. At that point, Gosh assured those in attendance that the sit-in would not be dispersed and asked the opposition to present its view of how to resolve the situation. He promised to communicate their position to the president.
As those at the meeting greeted each other before they left, Gosh whispered in Wadaa’s ear that the security committee would force the president to step down. The news of the coup did not, therefore, come as a surprise to the leaders of the Forces of Freedom and Change.
Military vehicle meeting
On Wednesday, April 10, the defence minister, accompanied by the chief of staff, returned to visit the president at his army headquarters, proposing that he should step down for the first time. He angrily and firmly told them that he would not step down, declaring that Islamic law grants him “the right to kill a third of his people to protect the rest of the nation.”
He even threatened to sack them.
On their way back in a military vehicle, the two generals agreed that President Bashir must step down.
The security committee makes a decision
On the evening of the same day, the security committee held a meeting to put forward a plan to break up the sit-in. Awad Ibn Auf chaired the meeting in the presence of the chief of staff, the director of the security service, the director of the police, the head of the Rapid Support Forces, General Mustafa Mohamed Mustafa, who was the director of military intelligence, and General Omar Zein al-Abideen.
Prior to the meeting, top generals struck bilateral arrangements regarding General Hameti, the leader of RSF, indicating the importance of the RSF and its leader.
To boost confidence, Gosh proposed insulating the meeting room and removing it from electronic coverage to make it impossible for anyone to eavesdrop on the meeting or send messages from the room to the outside world. Those in attendance agreed to depose the president.
Look for Burhan
Up until that moment, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was not part of the arrangements to topple President Bashir, as the former was not a member of the security committee. At midnight, Burhan was summoned from his house.
The security committee informed him of its decision and asked him to lead a delegation, including the director of intelligence as well as Major General Mohamed Othman al-Hussein, to inform the president of the decision after the morning prayer. It also instructed Burhan to change the battalion guarding the president, estimated at 90 guards excluding bodyguards. The mission was accomplished without significant resistance. Members of the RSF were brought in to guard the president.
At dawn on Thursday, April 11, Bashir left his house inside the army headquarters, heading toward the small mosque and carrying a Sufi rosary in his right hand. He was not worried. The director of the security service assured him that they would disperse the sit-in before sunrise. Bashir saw Burhan, accompanied by several officers, walking briskly toward him. He slowed down thinking that the inspector general of the army was looking for some advice before the last battle against the people. Burhan was nevertheless carrying bad tidings that the reign of Bashir had come to an end.
Disagreement delays the broadcast of the military communique
At 5 am, Thursday morning, several officers arrived at the radio and television building to broadcast a notice that an army communique would be announced, suggesting that the army has taken over power.
Members of the security committee did not wish that the defence minister, who was also the first vice president, read out the first communique but General Ibn Auf rejected their pleas. He understood their logic, but he knew that if he did not appear in the picture, he would be among the prisoners of the old regime. In the end, they agreed on the content of the communique and that General Ibn Auf would read it out, postponing differences among them to a later date.
After completing the communique and before agreeing on the formation of the military council, Ibn Auf took the oath as chair of the newly formed Transitional Military Council (TMC) and insisted that Lieutenant General Kamal Abdul Maarouf be sworn in as deputy chair.
That move triggered differences among the generals. Hemeti initiated a rebellious move by turning off all his phones and announcing his support for demonstrators and his disinterest in being a member of the TMC via the web site of the RSF.
That tactical move raised his profile among the revolutionaries and created an atmosphere of fear among the army generals. After painstaking efforts, Hemeti was contacted to salvage the situation. By the end of the first day of the revolution, Ibn Auf’s presidency began to peter out.
New differences among the powerful
On Friday, April 12, new disagreements among the top generals emerged. General Ibn Auf stepped down following a wave of popular protests against him as a symbol of the old regime.
Ibn Auf was supposed to be succeeded by his deputy, Kamal Abdul Maarouf, but the latter’s appointment raised objections due to his political affiliation with the previous government, in addition to his repeated disagreements with Lieutenant General Hemeti.
On the other hand, Burhan had achieved some popularity on the first day of the revolution, when he spoke with the demonstrators at the sit-in in front of the army headquarters, giving them assurances. In addition, he has had a long-standing relationship with Lieutenant General Hemeti since they were both working at the Border Guard and subsequently during the Yemen war. Thus, the generals agreed that Burhan would chair the TMC, notwithstanding his position as the fourth highest-ranking officer in the army hierarchy.
A meeting was later held in Khartoum in one of the buildings of the RSF and attended by Ibn Auf, who was still the chair of the TMC, as well as Gosh, the director of intelligence. It was agreed that Awad Ibn Auf, Kamal Abdul Maarouf, and Salah Gosh would not be considered for top leadership positions due to their political affiliations, thus securing the position of second-in-command at the TMC to Hemeti. The trio, Lieutenant General Omar Zein al-Abideen, Police Lieutenant General al-Tayeb Babakr, and Lieutenant General Jalal al-Deen al-Tayeb, who succeeded Gosh in the administration of the security service, resigned after the revolutionaries levelled accusations against them of being members of Bashir’s party. Burhan presented them as scapegoats to the FFC alliance.
Disagreements among army generals did not end until confrontation with civilian forces over political partnership increased during the transitional period.