Sudan anti-coup protesters march in Khartoum, other cities

Thousands take to the streets across Sudan calling for civilian rule and justice for those killed since the October 25 coup.

Sudan protests
People protest against last year’s military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators marching towards the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, witnesses said, as protesters rallied across several cities to demand a return to civilian rule and justice for protesters killed since last year’s coup.

“On Monday, security forces once again used tear gas to disperse protesters from the vicinity of the presidential palace,” Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said from Khartoum.

Protesters were seen hurling stones at security forces while others were helping people injured by the tear gas canisters, AFP news agency reported.

Anti-coup protesters in the city of Wad Madani, south of Khartoum, were seen waving Sudanese flags and carrying posters of people killed in the crackdown.

“No, no to military rule” and “blood for blood”, they chanted, according to witnesses.

Hundreds also gathered in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, residents there said.

Regular mass protests have been held in Sudan since the October 25 coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, which derailed the country’s rocky transition to civilian rule following the 2019 removal of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.

At least 79 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee, a medical group tracking casualties among protesters.

There were also widescale arrests of activists leading the anti-coup protests and allegations of sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, in a December 19 protest in Khartoum, according to the United Nations.

Morgan said while protesters are demanding that the military “return to the barracks”, they also have other demands including accountability for the protesters who have been killed since the military took over power.

They are also demanding the release of activists and political detainees who have been arrested by the army because of their opposition to military rule, she said.

Monday’s protests took place despite heavy security presence in Khartoum and its neighbouring cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North.

Some protesters in Khartoum also called for the dissolution of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by al-Burhan’s deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, AFP said.

“The Janjaweed should be dissolved,” the protesters chanted, in reference to the RSF, which grew out of the government-backed militias accused by rights groups of atrocities in Darfur.

It came only two days after thousands of pro-military demonstrators rallied against recent UN talks that aimed to help Sudan resolve the political crisis since the coup.

The initiative which aimed to bring civilians and the military to the negotiating table has been welcomed by various pro-democracy groups – but has been rejected by others, including the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which was at the forefront of the 2019 uprising that toppled al-Bashir.

The upheaval in Sudan worsened last month following the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was the civilian face of the transitional government during the past two years.

The prime minister, who was deposed in the October coup only to be reinstated a month later under heavy international pressure, stepped down on January 2 after his efforts to reach a compromise failed.

The country, which was already in the grip of a dire economic crisis before the coup, has seen vital foreign aid cut as part of the international community’s condemnation of the takeover.

Sudan’s Sovereign Council led by al-Burhan has said it will not handover power unless to an “elected government or a government that comes to power through a political consensus,” Morgan said.

But, political consensus has been “very hard to reach since that takeover”, she said.

“Many political parties have refused to actually sit down with the military and negotiate a deal to nominate a transitional government to lead until elections are held in July 2023 as per General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.”

The United States, which suspended $700m in assistance to Sudan after the coup, has warned that a continued crackdown by the authorities would have “consequences”.

Sudanese authorities have repeatedly denied using live ammunition against demonstrators, reporting that scores of security officers have been wounded and a police general was stabbed to death.

On Monday, the SPA said the latest demonstrations were “a message to the dictatorship that authority lies with the people”. The leading pro-democracy group had called for anti-coup protests in various cities across the country on their official Facebook page.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies