Tens of thousands in Sudan demonstrate for democracy despite tear gas

Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters demonstrated Sunday for a civilian-led transition to democracy, three years since the start of the mass demonstrations that led to the ouster of veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Security forces fired tear gas canisters, injuring several, witnesses said, as activists at the presidential palace in Khartoum chanted slogans against the military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led a coup on 25 May. October.

“People want Burhan down,” protesters shouted as additional security forces were deployed to surround the growing crowd.

Sudan’s generals in the post-Bashir transitional government launched their coup nearly two months ago and kept the civilian leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, under effective house arrest for weeks, but reinstated him on November 21.

The move alienated many of Hamdok’s supporters of democracy, who dismissed it as providing a cloak of legitimacy for Burhan’s coup.

“Any coup, even after Hamdok’s reinstatement, is unacceptable,” a protester in his twenties told AFP as thousands of people waved Sudanese flags in front of him.

“Our glorious December revolution seeks civil institutions, not individuals in particular.”

‘Slide into the abyss’

Hamdok, who has argued that he wants to prevent further bloodshed, warned Saturday night of “the country’s slide into the abyss,” and urged protesters to moderate.

“Today we face a considerable setback on the path of our revolution that threatens the security of the nation, its unity and its stability,” he said.

However, the protest organizers have promised, in a key catchphrase, that they want “no negotiation, no association and no legitimacy” for the current leadership.

Another protester, in his thirties and also wearing a Sudanese flag, said: “I came out today in total rejection of the political agreement! This agreement does not represent the people. We have a demand and it is a civil government, not one that ends up being under military control “.

Previous protests against the seizure of military power have been forcibly dispersed.

Nationwide, at least 45 people have died and dozens more have been injured, according to the independent Medical Committee.

On Sunday, authorities closed the bridges linking the capital with its sister city, Omdurman, but large crowds still gathered.

“The numbers are huge and the security forces cannot control them,” said a man who witnessed the protests in Omdurman.

‘All the scenarios on the table’

The date of December 19 has a particular resonance in the history of Sudan.

Not only was it the day in 2018 when thousands launched mass protests that months later ended Bashir’s three decades in power, it was also the day in 1955 when Sudanese lawmakers declared their independence from British colonial rule.

After Bashir’s ouster, a joint military-civil transition government took power, but the troubled alliance was destroyed by Burhan’s takeover.

“The coup has put obstacles in the way of democratic transition and has given the military full control over politics and the economy,” Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Al-Jarida, told AFP.

Sudan’s military dominates for-profit companies in sectors ranging from agriculture to infrastructure.

The prime minister said last year that 80 percent of the state’s resources were “outside the control of the Finance Ministry.”

“The security apparatus has defeated political institutions,” Abdel-Aziz said.

Khaled Omer, a minister in the ousted government, said the coup was a “catastrophe” but also “an opportunity to rectify the deficiencies” of the previous political agreement with the army.

He warned that anything could happen in the coming months with the military still firmly in power.

“If the main political actors do not act together and the military establishment does not distance itself from politics … then all the scenarios are on the table,” Omer said.

The November 21 agreement also set July 2023 as the date for new elections.

Hamdok said he partnered with the army to “stop the bloodshed” that resulted from the crackdown on the protests and not to “waste the achievements of the past two years.”

(AFP)

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