The New York Times | The Son Protested the Dictator. The Father Helped Throw Him Out.

KHARTOUM, Sudan — As protesters massed at the gates of Sudan’s military headquarters, calling for the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the country’s Air Force chief stepped outside to address them.

Lt. Gen. Salah Abdelkhalig, a hard-bitten veteran of Sudan’s many wars, assured the protesters they had nothing to fear from the military. “This army is your army,” he recalled saying. “We are not going to fight you.”

What few in the crowd knew was that among the faces gathered in front of him was his own son.

“I had to be there,” said the son, Abdelkhalig Salah, 28, a commercial airline pilot whose frustrations with decades of decline under Mr. al-Bashir had prompted him to protest outside his father’s office.

Protesters walked past a Sudanese soldier, at the site of the protests in front of Sudan’s military headquarters.
Protesters walked past a Sudanese soldier, at the site of the protests in front of Sudan’s military headquarters.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Families at the sit-in in Khartoum waited to have their faces painted with Sudanese flags.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times
Families at the sit-in in Khartoum waited to have their faces painted with Sudanese flags.CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times

General Abdelkhalig, seated beside him on Saturday in military uniform at their richly appointed Khartoum villa, nodded. “I didn’t agree at first,” he said. “But this is the change that young people wanted.”

The family split mirrors the broader tensions in Sudan, where civilian and military leaders are engaged in testy negotiations over the future of this vast and impoverished country. Each side is vying to take control, promising to undo the legacy of three decades of misrule under the autocratic leader, Mr. al-Bashir.

General Abdelkhalig and other senior generals ousted Mr. al-Bashir in a bloodless coup in the predawn darkness of April 11. They used jamming devices to block his cellphones, and when he realized he’d been outmaneuvered, Mr. al-Bashir was stunned and furious, General Abdelkhalig said, revealing for the first time details of how the coup was engineered.

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