Thousands take to the streets of Sudan to protest the military coup
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CAIRO – Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets on Saturday chanting “revolution, revolution” with whistles and drums, to protest a military coup earlier this week that threatened to derail the unstable transition of the country towards democracy.
Pro-democracy groups had called for mass protest marches across the country to pressure demands for the reestablishment of a deposed transitional government and the release of senior politicians.
Sudan’s transition to democracy began in 2019 when a popular uprising forced the withdrawal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist-allied government after nearly three decades in power.
The UN special envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, met with General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo on Friday evening, a coup deemed close to Sudan’s strongman General Abdel-Fattah Burhan. Dagalo commands the dreaded Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary unit that controls the streets of the capital Khartoum and played a major role in the coup. Perthes said in a Twitter message that he “stressed the need for calm, to allow peaceful protests and to avoid confrontation” during his talks with Dagalo.
Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, also urged security forces to avoid violence against protesters. “They will be held individually responsible for any excessive use of force against the demonstrators. We are monitoring,” he warned.
Saturday’s protests were likely to increase pressure on the generals, who already face mounting condemnation from the United States and other Western countries for re-establishing a civilian-led government.
The protests, under the banner of “Going back is impossible”, were called by the Association of Sudanese Professionals and the so-called resistance committees. Both were at the forefront of the uprising against al-Bashir and his Islamist government. They demand the dismantling of the now ruling military council, headed by Burhan, and the transfer of government to civilians.
The list of demands also includes the dismantling of paramilitary groups and the restructuring of the army, intelligence and security services to remove officers still loyal to al-Bashir.
Protesters took to the streets of Khartoum and its sister city Omdurman, activists Mohamed Khalifa and Mohammed Farog said. Images circulating online mainly showed young protesters marching through neighborhoods in Khartoum, carrying Sudanese flags and chanting slogans against military leaders.
It was feared that the security forces would again use violence to disperse the demonstrators. Since Monday, troops have fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-coup protesters. They also beat protesters with sticks and whips.
Mohammed Yousef al-Mustafa, spokesperson for the professional association, said security forces fired tear gas at protesters as they attempted to cross the Manshia Bridge over the Nile into the city center. from Khartoum.
“No power-sharing mediation with the military council yet,” he said. “They (the generals) failed the transition and triggered a coup.”
Al-Mustafa spoke by telephone to the Associated Press while participating in the protest in the Manshia neighborhood of Khartoum.
Security forces had already blocked the main roads and bridges connecting neighborhoods in Khartoum. Security was tight in the city center and outside the army headquarters, the site of a major sit-in camp during the 2019 uprising
Since the military takeover, there have been daily demonstrations in the streets. At least nine people were killed by gunfire from security forces, according to the Committee of Sudanese Doctors and Activists. At least 170 other people were injured, according to the UN.
Burhan claimed the takeover was necessary to prevent a civil war, citing what he said were growing divisions between political groups. However, the takeover came less than a month before he handed over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the main decision-making body in Sudan, to a civilian. Such a measure would have reduced the hold of the army on the country. The council had both civilian and military members.
As part of the coup, Burhan sacked the council and the transitional government, headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was in charge of day-to-day affairs. It has also imposed a state of emergency across the country, and military authorities have largely cut internet and mobile phone services. Internet access remained largely disrupted on Saturday, according to Internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.
Burhan has taken over as the head of a military council that will rule Sudan until the July 2023 elections. In an interview with Russian state-run news agency Sputnik published on Friday, Burhan said he would soon appoint a new one. Prime Minister who will form a cabinet which must share the direction of the country with the armed forces.
“We have a patriotic duty to lead the people and help them during the transition period until the elections are held,” Burhan said in the interview. He said that as long as the expected protests are peaceful, “the security forces will not intervene.”
However, observers said it was doubtful the military would allow a full transition to civilian rule, if only to block civilian oversight of the military’s large financial holdings.
News Today abc News Thousands take to the streets of Sudan to protest the military coup