The Sudanese army will make an "important statement soon," state television and radio announced on Thursday morning, as thousands of protesters camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.
" Sudanese army will issue and important statement soon. Wait for it, "a television anchor said.
State media offered no further details, as the rally outside the army complex entered its sixth day. Reuters reporter said military vehicles were deployed on key roads in the capital.
As people waited for further word, state television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese or how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest. "People are coming in droves," said one onlooker
The news of an announcement from the army came as analysts warned Sudan could descend into anarchy if its political crisis is not resolved peacefully and rival factions within the security establishment fight for power
The country, one of Africa's biggest and most strategically important, has been paralyzed by months of protests against the 30-year rule of its autocratic president, Omar al-Bashir.
Since Saturday, thousands of people have camped on a crossroads in the center of the capital, Khartoum, calling for Bashir to step down.
Attempts by security forces to break up the demonstration have killed at least 22 – including five soldiers, who organizers said were defending the protesters – and injured more than 150.
The main protest area in Khartoum has expanded slightly since the weekend, witnesses said. Makeshift medical facilities and water distribution points have been set up while protesters have organized cleaning patrols to sweep away rubbish. There have also been reports of protests elsewhere in the country of 40 million people, including Port Sudan in the north-east.
"These kinds of anti-government demonstrations are not new, but this time a much wider swath of society is involved… including professional classes who for decades were either driven overseas or co-opted [by the regime]”said Zach Vertin, an analyst at the Brookings Institution thinktank and author of a new book on Sudan and South Sudan.
an expert on Sudan with Human Rights Watch, said the current round of protests had been boosted by "a greater mobilization across the board".
Another new factor is the apparent split within the security forces. Some elements within the military appear to include demonstrators against armed militia loyal to Bashir and the feared intelligence services. “This is unprecedented. We are in a new landscape now, "said Verin.
On Tuesday, demonstrators were seen hoisting soldiers on their shoulders while others joyfully saluted soldiers in armored vehicles.
"This is an obvious endorsement that is better understood as a co-opting of the protest movement," said Magdi el -Gizouli, an analyst with the Rift Valley Institute. “The events of April 6 and 7 have been rehabilitated by the army and affirmed their political weight.”
There have been reports of senior police commanders and militia leaders pledging not to harm the protesters, though it is unclear if these have been officially endorsed.
Protest leaders have called on the army to resolve the crisis, possibly taking temporary control of the government. All are mindful of what instability could cause. Any chaos could have a very high cost, ”said Saif al Din Abdelrahman, a Sudanese economist and expert in Nairobi, Kenya.
Analysts point to four possible future scenarios. One is a brutal crackdown by security forces loyal to the president. “There could be very serious violence. Massacres could ensue. In 2013, security forces were mowing down people ruthlessly and 200 died, ”said Henry.
But Bashir might as well make concessions in the hope of retaining some power, perhaps accepting a more ceremonial role and pledging not to stand in elections in 2020. This is unlikely to satisfy the protesters, and would need backing from within the military and the ruling National Congress party.
The US, Britain and Norway have all called on the Sudanese authorities to deliver a credible plan for a peaceful transition of power. But a problem here is that Bashir faces charges of genocide and crime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and thus the possibility of arrest, trial and lengthy prison sentence in travel overseas. “It would have been much easier for a transition if there was no ICC. The indictment leaves few options [for Bashir]"Abdelrahman said.
The nightmare scenario is a collapse in government authority and widespread disorder.