Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas as thousands of protesters rallied against a deal that saw the civilian prime minister reinstated following a military coup last month, witnesses said.
The protests on Thursday came just days after army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan signed a new power-sharing deal with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, after releasing him from house arrest.
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The move was the biggest concession made by the military since its October 25 coup but leaves the country’s transition to democracy mired in crisis. Prior to the takeover, Sudan’s transitional government was composed of the Sovereign Council, a joint military-civilian body headed by al-Burhan, and a civilian cabinet led by Hamdok.
Sudan’s pro-democracy movement dismissed the agreement as falling short of their demands for full civilian rule and accused Hamdok of allowing himself to serve as a fig leaf for continued military rule. The military was due to hand over the sovereign council’s leadership to a civilian in the coming months.
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who remained deputy head of a new, al-Burhan-headed Sovereign Council that was formed after the coup, told Al Jazeera the military takeover followed long discussions between political parties which failed to produce results.
“What happened on October 25 was the ultimate outcome of a long process since change started in Sudan. During the process, many discussions were made and many initiatives were proposed by various parties,” Dagalo, widely known as Hemeti, said in an interview.
“The prime minister himself proposed two initiatives and during our meetings … we made maximum efforts but we couldn’t reach a breakthrough. At that point we were left with three options, the best of which was the move we had taken.”
‘Power to the people’
Sudan has been struggling with its transition to a democratic government since the military removed longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019, following a mass uprising against three decades of his rule.
Since the coup last month, during which dozens of politicians and activists were arrested, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets in the largest demonstrations since those that ended al-Bashir’s reign.
Protest organisers dubbed Thursday as “Martyrs’ day”, to pay tribute to the 42 people killed, according to medics, in the crackdown against anti-coup demonstrators.
Demonstrators in Khartoum chanted slogans such as, “The people want the downfall of the regime”, while in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman others shouted, “Power to the people, a civilian government is the people’s choice”.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Omdurman, as well as in the central state of North Kordofan and in North Darfur, witnesses said.
Live streams on social media also showed protests in cities including Port Sudan, Kassala, Wad Madani and El Geneina.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said protesters were angry “at what they say was a betrayal by the prime minister for accepting to negotiate and to sign a deal with the military.
“Since the takeover, people have been demanding that the military completely step aside from the politics and hand over power to a complete civilian government, restoring the position of Hamdok, releasing all political prisoners but also having no role in the day to day affairs of the country,” Morgan said.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that spearheaded the uprising that culminated in al-Bashir’s removal, had called for the rallies and promised to carry on with protests until “the corrupt military junta is brought down and prosecuted for their crimes”.
The deal that Hamdok signed with the military on Sunday envisions an independent, technocratic cabinet to be led by the prime minister until new elections are held.
However, the government would still remain under military oversight. Hamdok said he would have the power to appoint ministers.
The deal also stipulates that all political detainees arrested following the coup be released. So far, several ministers and politicians have been freed. The number of those still in detention remains unknown.
On Wednesday, Hamdok told a local Sudanese television channel that unless all are released, “the deal will be worthless.”