Sudanese vow to keep up protests after deadly clashes

Published October 30, 2021
KHARTOUM: People protest on Friday after the military coup earlier this week. — AP
KHARTOUM: People protest on Friday after the military coup earlier this week. — AP

KHARTOUM: Furious Sudanese anti-coup protesters vowed to press ahead on Friday with a campaign of civil disobedience, following deadly clashes with security forces during demonstrations against a widely condemned military takeover.

At least eight people have been killed and 170 wounded in protests since the army’s power grab earlier this week, including one demonstrator who died in violence overnight Thursday when security forces fired tear gas and live and rubber-tipped bullets, according to medics.

As the country braces for major demonstrations planned for Saturday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the military “to show restraint and not to create any more victims”, saying people “must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully”.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan — Sudan’s de facto leader since the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir after huge youth-led protests — on Monday dissolved the country’s civilian-led government and ordered the arrest of several top officials.

Sudan had been ruled since August 2019 by a joint civilian-military council, alongside Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s administration, as part of the now stalled transition to full civilian rule.

Hamdok has been placed under effective house arrest, while other civilian leaders are in military detention. The capital has been rocked by days of unrest.

“Confronting peaceful protesters with gunfire is something that should not be tolerated,” said protester Haitham Mohamed in Khartoum. “It will not make us back down; it only strengthens our resolve.”

Amnesty International said security forces killed at least six people and wounded 140 others “by shooting live rounds into multiple crowds of protesters in the capital Khartoum” on Monday.

“Sudan’s military leaders, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, must make no mistake about it: the world is watching and will not tolerate further bloodshed,” the rights group said in a statement.

Burhan, a senior general under the three decades of Bashir’s iron-fisted rule, has insisted the military’s takeover “was not a coup” but only meant to “rectify the course of the Sudanese transition”.

At Friday prayers in a mosque — broadcast on state-run Sudan TV and well-attended by soldiers in uniform — the imam echoed that rhetoric, urging worshippers not to call it a “coup” but rather a “well-timed rectification”.

“Our loyalty and love should be for the security forces,” he said. “We should not harm them.” On Friday, soldiers from the regular army and the much-feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces patrolled the streets of Khartoum, as well as Khartoum-North and the capital’s twin city Omdurman across the Nile River.

Heavily armed security forces tore down protest barricades of tyres and rocks blocking roads, and carried out random searches of people and cars.

“The military is no different than the previous regime,” protester Mohamed added.

The internet has been widely blocked, and shops are largely closed in Khartoum. Many civil servants are refusing to work until the transitional government is restored.

The coup was the latest in the impoverished country, which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956 and spent decades riven by civil war.

It prompted international condemnation and several punitive measures, with the World Bank and the United States freezing aid, which will hit a country already mired in a dire economic crisis hard.

The coup was a “grave setback”, US President Joe Biden said Thursday, while the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership for the “unconstitutional” takeover.

Protesters are gearing up for what they claim will be a “million” strong march against the military on Saturday.

Their slogans are clear: “Burhan, leave power”, and “Burhan to Kober!” — referring to the high-security prison in Khartoum where Bashir is behind bars.

Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi, the daughter of Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister who was ousted in Bashir’s 1989 military coup, is one of the few civilian leaders not in detention, and has become a leading critic of Burhan.

“We clearly reject any coup... we also resist it with all civil means,” she told Al Arabiya television.

Multiple Sudanese diplomatic missions — including to the US, China and the European Union — have openly rejected the military seizure of power, prompting Burhan to sack them.

Earlier this week, soldiers seized control of the state news agency SUNA, forcing journalists out, while on Friday they targeted the Al Democraty newspaper.

Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas on Friday demanded the release of arrested officials, calling on people to continue their protests “until victory”.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2021

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