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As Sudan braces for protests, US warns generals of violence

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As Sudan braces for protests, US warns generals of violence

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NAIROBI, Kenya – Large protests were expected across Sudan on Saturday as pro-democracy groups planned to challenge this week’s military coup that ushered in a new era of uncertainty for one of the biggest African 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 the 2019 ousting of Omar Hassan longtime Sudanese dictator 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.

The news led to numerous protests, 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 and injuring 170 others, according to the pro-democracy Sudanese Doctors Central Committee. Professional and trade unions have called for civil disobedience; many banks, schools and stores closed and many federal and state officials remained at home.

Analysts said Saturday’s protests and the security forces’ response to them would be a litmus test for the military, which has a history of bloody crackdowns. Many Sudanese vividly remember June 3, 2019, when security forces violently dispersed protests in the capital, raping and killing dozens of people and throwing parts of their bodies into the Nile.

Credit…Ashraf Shazly / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

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,” Feltman said. said in a Twitter post.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reinforced this message. The United States continues to stand alongside the Sudanese people in their non-violent struggle for democracy, ”he said said on twitter. “The Sudanese security forces must respect human rights; any violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.

Pro-democracy groups have rejected the possibility of recognizing or negotiating with a military government, demanding instead that all civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is now under house arrest, be released. Tensions over the possibility of a coup had been simmering for months, as civilian groups accused the military of wanting to cling to power and resisting efforts to hold commanders accountable for atrocities committed under Mr. al-Bashir, the ousted dictator.

On Saturday, protests were expected not only in Sudan but in cities around the world with large Sudanese populations. Protesters against the coup were on the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia, and in Australian cities including Sydney and the capital Canberra on Saturday morning.

“We have been shocked by what is happening in Sudan,” said Hussein Yasin, a Sudanese living in Britain, by telephone. He said protests were being staged in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and other cities, and protesters would 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.

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”.

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.”

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.

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