Protesters killed in Sudan on day considered test for army
NAIROBI, Kenya – Three people were killed and more than 100 injured in Sudan on Saturday, a group of medics said as pro-democracy crowds flooded the streets in defiance of a military coup this week which ushered in a new era of uncertainty for one of Africa’s largest countries.
Activists called for a “march of millions” days after Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military leader, dissolved the joint civil-military government that took shape after Omar’s 2019 ouster Longtime Sudanese dictator Hassan al-Bashir. On Monday, General al-Burhan ordered the arrest of the prime minister and other senior civilian leaders, imposed a nationwide state of emergency and said the military would establish a new government. He promised an election in July 2023.
These measures led to numerous protests throughout the week, as protesters in the capital, Khartoum, and other Sudanese cities called for a return to civilian rule. Security forces responded with violence, killing at least seven people ahead of Saturday’s protests and injuring 170 others, according to the pro-democracy Sudanese Doctors Central Committee. Professional and labor unions have called for civil disobedience, many banks, schools and shops have closed, and many federal and state officials have remained at home.
The Sudanese military has a bloody history of repression, and analysts have said Saturday’s protests, and the security forces’ response to them, would be a test of the military’s willingness to turn a page. Many Sudanese vividly remember June 3, 2019, when security forces violently dispersed protests in the capital, raping and killing dozens of people and throwing some of the bodies into the Nile.
“The army promises to build a civil and democratic state while stepping over the corpses of innocent people,” said Dr Sara Abdelgalil, spokesperson for the Association of Sudanese Professionals, a coalition of pro-democracy unions. “We cannot allow this military takeover to become a success story. “
The group of doctors said in a Facebook post that two of the dead were killed in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum. Security forces fired live ammunition at protesters, the group of medics said, hitting one in the head and the other in the stomach.
The group provided no details of where the third person was killed, but reported dozens of wounded in the town of Bahri, near the capital, and in Gedaref state, to the east. . The protests continued into the night, with protesters still marching in the streets.
The deaths and injuries have occurred despite repeated calls by US and United Nations officials for peaceful protests to be allowed.
On Friday evening, the UN Special Envoy for Sudan met with General Mohamed Hamdan, known as Hemeti, who heads the dreaded paramilitary rapid support forces who played a role in the latest coup. Envoy Volker Perthes, said on twitter that he insisted to the general on the need “to avoid any confrontation” with the demonstrators.
US special envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said he spoke with General al-Burhan and other senior officials on Friday and warned of a violent response to planned rallies .
“The Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully this weekend, and the United States will be watching closely,” Mr Feltman’s office tweeted.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reinforced this message. “The United States continues to support the Sudanese people in their non-violent struggle for democracy,” he tweeted. “The Sudanese security forces must respect human rights; any violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.
Some members of the Sudanese military have been surprised at the level of public resistance to the coup, and rivalries between the generals are starting to emerge, said Ed Hobey-Hamsher, senior analyst for Africa at Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based global risk intelligence firm.
“The fate of the coup is still at stake,” he said.
Pro-democracy groups have rejected the possibility of recognizing or negotiating with a military government, instead demanding the release of all civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is now under house arrest. UN envoy Perthes said in a statement he was in contact with all parties and was trying to negotiate “towards a peaceful solution to the current crisis”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera television on Saturday, Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the foreign minister of the now dissolved Sudanese government, said the military must respect the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people. She said she remained concerned for Mr. Hamdok’s welfare.
“The Sudanese people spoke clearly today,” she said. “We must humbly and respectfully submit to the ideas of the Sudanese people. “
Tensions over the possibility of a coup had been simmering for months, as civilian groups accused the military of clinging to power and resisting efforts to hold commanders accountable for corruption and atrocities rights under Mr. al-Bashir, the ousted dictator.
Amid a nationwide internet blackout on Saturday, protesters carrying Sudanese flags gathered at midday in the Khartoum and Omdurman neighborhoods before marching to main streets and bus stations.
Demonstrators could be heard chanting: “The people are stronger and the revolution will continue.” Others carried banners saying “No to military rule”.
Security remained tight around the capital’s military headquarters, with major bridges closed and the road to the airport blocked at one point, witnesses said.
In El Fasher, a town in the North Darfur region of northwest Sudan, the military closed the market and sent people home, according to an aid official who requested anonymity to play down everything. potential risk to the operations of his organization.
The towns of Geneina in West Darfur and Gedaref in the East also had a strong military and police presence, the official said. In some towns, military officers lifted blockades of bricks, flagstones and tree branches that protesters had placed across roads to prevent them from accessing neighborhoods.
On Saturday protests were held not only in Sudan but in cities around the world with large Sudanese populations. Protesters against the coup took to the streets in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Lebanon, Norway and the United States.
“We have been in shock at what is happening in Sudan,” said Elhussein Yasin, board member of the Sudanese Diaspora Round Table in Britain, by telephone. He said protesters had come to major British cities, including London and Birmingham, to urge British lawmakers to pressure Sudanese generals to relinquish power.
“We are protesting to say no to a military coup and yes to democracy,” Yasin said.
The coup and the protests that followed are the latest signs of instability in the North East African country, which has been hampered by growing economic hardship, the coronavirus pandemic, and shortages of medicines and drugs. fuel. This week, the United States froze $ 700 million in direct aid to the Sudanese government, the World Bank suspended all disbursements to the country and the European Union threatened to follow suit.
The African Union suspended Sudan and the generals were condemned by leaders and governments around the world. President Biden said he “admired the courage of the Sudanese people in demanding that their voice be heard.”
Amnesty International on Friday called on Sudanese generals to investigate the killings of protesters earlier in the week and prosecute those involved.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said military leaders “must make no mistake: the world is watching and will not tolerate bloodshed anymore”.