The Sudanese protest movement has welcomed “positive steps” taken by the ruling military council which held talks with opposition leaders over the weekend and released some political prisoners.

The praise came despite a brief incident on Monday when activists said soldiers attempted to disperse the protest sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum, but eventually backed off.

Last week, Sudan’s military ousted long-time President Omar al-Bashir following four months of street protests against his rule, then appointed a military council that it says will rule for two years or less while elections are organised.

Demonstrators fear that the army, dominated by al-Bashir appointees, will cling to power or select one of its own to succeed him.

Demonstrators gather in Sudan’s capital
Demonstrators gather in Sudan’s capital (AP)

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which is behind the protests, repeated its key demand at a press conference in Khartoum: The military must immediately give power to a transitional civilian government that would rule for four years.

“The trust is in the street,” said prominent activist Mohammed Naji al-Asam, referring to the ongoing sit-in. The SPA also called on the international community to support civilian rule.

The African Union gave Sudan’s military 15 days to hand over power to a “civilian-led political authority” or face suspension from the union’s activities. It said a civilian authority should hold elections “as quickly as possible”.

Earlier in the day, the SPA urged people into the streets, saying: “There is an attempt to break up the sit-in. We appeal to everyone to head to the area to protect your revolution and gains.”

There were no clashes and no one was hurt in the attempted dispersal, but the incident set off concerns that the military could renege on its promises not to use force against the peaceful demonstrators.

Previous attempts to break up the sit-in before al-Bashir’s removal last Thursday killed dozens of people.

Videos circulated online showing hundreds of troops outside the military compound in Khartoum. In the footage, an officer is heard saying they came to open roads, “clean the area” and remove the barricades set up by the protesters to protect their gathering.

Some protesters are then seen in the footage sitting down on the ground in front of the soldiers who subsequently move away.