The mass marches held in Sudan this week breathed new life into the uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir, but the protesters and the ruling military council remain at an impasse amid fears the country could slide into further chaos. Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and other areas on Sunday, vowing to complete the revolution they launched in December. Nearly a dozen people were killed in clashes as security forces prevented the demonstrators from reaching the military headquarters and the Nile-side presidential palace. It was the biggest show of determination by the protesters since security forces violently dispersed their main sit-in outside the military headquarters on June 3, killing at least 128 people. That triggered the suspension of talks on forming a transitional government just as the two sides seemed on the verge of an agreement. Ethiopian and African Union mediators are working to restart the talks, but both sides have hardened their demands since last month’s violence, with the generals saying earlier proposals are off the table and the protesters calling for an immediate transition to civilian rule and an investigation into the killings. Here’s a look at where things may be heading. FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY Protests first erupted in December in response to price hikes but rapidly escalated into near-daily marches calling for an end to al-Bashir’s nearly 30-year rule. Troops largely refused al-Bashir’s orders to fire on the protesters, and the military removed him from power on
Ethiopia and the AU have been mediating between the military council and the pro-democracy movement demanding civilian rule. Talks collapsed when Sudanese security forces cleared a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. The deadly clampdown killed at least 128 people cross the county, according to protest organizers.
Shops were closed and streets were empty across Sudan on Sunday, the first day of a general strike called for by protest leaders demanding the resignation of the ruling military council. The Sudanese Professionals Association had called on people to stay home starting on Sunday, the first day of the work week, in protest at the deadly crackdown last week, when security forces violently dispersed the group’s main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum. The protesters say more than 100 people have been killed since the crackdown began last Monday. The protesters hope that by bringing daily life to a halt they can force the military to hand over power to civilians. The military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir in April after four months of mass rallies but has refused demonstrators’ demands for an immediate move to civilian rule, instead pushing for a transitional power-sharing arrangement. An Associated Press journalist saw heavy deployment of troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in several parts of Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman. There are long queues for fuel in several areas in the capital. The internet remains cut off in Khartoum and other types of communications also restricted, with reports of mobile network services heavily disrupted. Security forces removed barricades from the main roads and opened the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters for the first time since the dispersal. The SPA urged protesters to avoid clashes with the RSF. Protesters have accused the RSF, which grew out
Two Sudanese rebel leaders were arrested early on Saturday, opposition sources said, shortly after meeting visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is trying to mediate in a crisis threatening a transition to democracy. Abiy had on Friday urged Sudan’s military rulers and civilian opposition to exercise “bravery” in trying to agree steps towards democracy after the worst bloodshed since the overthrow in April of President Omar al-Bashir. The Ethiopian premier visited days after Sudanese forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum where demonstrators were demanding civilian rule. Dozens of people have been killed since Monday. While no breakthrough was announced at the end of Abiy’s one-day visit, an aide to the Ethiopian prime minister said the talks went well and that Abiy would be returning to Sudan soon. The ruling Transitional Military Council thanked Ethiopia on Saturday for its mediation efforts, state news agency SUNA said. The TMC expressed its “openness and keenness to negotiate to reach satisfactory understandings that will lead to a national consensus…, leading to the establishment of a democratic transition,” SUNA said. ARRESTS However, two opposition figures who were at Friday’s meeting with Abiy said Ismail Jallab, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), and the armed group’s spokesman Mubarak Ardol were detained a few hours later. Abiy offered to mediate after the opposition Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) alliance’s talks with the TMC over who will lead a transition period before elections had ground to a
The African Union said on Thursday it had suspended Sudan until a civilian government was formed, intensifying international pressure on the country’s new military rulers to give up power. Ethiopia meanwhile will launch a mediation effort on Friday, diplomatic sources in Khartoum said. The moves take place after security forces cleared protesters from a sit-in camp in central Khartoum on Monday, killing dozens of people in the worst violence since President Omar al-Bashir was removed by the military in April after four months of generally peaceful protests. The opposition had been in talks with an interim military council over a civilian-led transition to democracy, but the negotiations faltered and this week’s crackdown marked a turning point in the power struggle. The United Nations and several foreign governments have condemned the bloodshed. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, in a meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday, decided to suspend Sudan from all AU activities until a civilian government has been formed. Suspension is the African Union’s normal response to any interruption of constitutional rule in one of its members. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was due to visit Khartoum on Friday to try to mediate between the military and an opposition alliance, a diplomatic source at the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum said. The source told Reuters that Abiy would meet members of the Transitional Military Council and the opposition’s Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces during his one-day visit. Ethiopia hosts the headquarters of the African Union but it was
Sudan’s opposition on Tuesday rejected a plan by its military rulers to hold elections within nine months, a day after the worst bout of violence since Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president in April. At least 35 people were killed on Monday when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the opposition. The military council that has ruled since Bashir’s overthrow afterwards cancelled all agreements with the main opposition alliance. But Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) opposition alliance, said an open-ended civil disobedience campaign would continue to try to force the council from power. The opposition rejected all that Transitional Military Council (TMC) Head Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in his statement, Madani told Reuters. “What happened, killing protesters, wounding and humiliation, was a systematic and planned matter to impose repression on the Sudanese people,” he said. The atmosphere in the capital Khartoum was very tense on Tuesday as many roads were barricaded by protesters, many shops were shut and streets were mostly empty. Security forces were trying to clear the barricades, a Reuters witness said. Rapid Support Forces vehicles were patrolling the streets in Omdurman, on the other side of the River Nile from Khartoum, and firing into the air. The leaders of protests that forced Bashir from power after three decades of authoritarian rule in April have demanded preparations for elections during a transitional period led by
Six weeks after a coup d’etat in Sudan, high-profile military leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is evolving into an increasingly influential political force. The involvement of so powerful a military chief in politics could undermine efforts to create a democracy in the northeast African country and provoke army officers who are wary of his ambitions, opponents and Western diplomats say. Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, is deputy chairman of Transitional Military Council (TMC) that has been running Sudan since President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s fall in April. Unlike junta leader Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Hemedti has grabbed the limelight, often delivering speeches in public as Sudan navigates a volatile transition period after a 30-year dictatorship. “Hemedti is playing an increasingly prominent role, ranging beyond his core security brief. This suggests an ambition to play a longer-term political role,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters. “A more prominent leadership role for Hemedti would undermine the clear popular demand for civilian leadership in Sudan.” In his rise from humble beginnings as a desert livestock trader to one of Bashir’s most trusted aides in a country of constantly shifting alliances, Hemedti has shown his determination and skill at manoeuvring behind the scenes. A tall, imposing figure who has an office in the presidential palace, Hemedti is backed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the widely feared paramilitary fighters who number in the tens of thousands and control the capital Khartoum. Hemedti also gained vital support from oil powers Saudi Arabia and the United
Sudan’s opposition alliance blamed military rulers on Tuesday for renewed street violence complicating efforts to negotiate a handover to civilian power after last month’s ouster of President Omar al-Bashir. At least four people died and dozens were injured during protests on Monday as the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and opposition Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) said they had reached a partial agreement for transition. Gunfire rang out in the capital into the night after paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – whose head is deputy of the military council – had patrolled the streets using tear gas and guns to disrupt demonstrations. The protesters, who want to keep pressure on the military for a swift handover, were back on Tuesday, blocking roads and bridges with bricks and rocks, images on social media showed. “The bullets that were fired yesterday were Rapid Support Forces bullets and we hold the military council responsible for what happened yesterday,” Khalid Omar Youssef, a senior figure in the DFCF, told a news conference. “While they claimed that a third party was the one who did so, eyewitnesses confirmed that the party was in armed forces vehicles and in armed forces uniforms, so the military council must reveal this party.” “HE MEANT TO KILL ME” Monday’s fatalities were the first in protests for several weeks after months of demonstrations led to Bashir’s fall. The victims included a military police officer and three demonstrators, state TV said. An opposition-linked doctors’ committee said there was a fifth
After spearheading the rallies that toppled former President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s main protest group is now locked in a stand-off with the country’s new military rulers that is testing its clout as a political force. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) gained widespread support during more than four months of protests and it has helped win a string of apparent concessions from the military council that took over from Bashir on April 11.
But as the unionists and activists in the SPA try to chart a course to full-fledged democracy, they are coming up against a powerful rival that has shown little sign yet that it is willing to move aside for a civilian-led transition.
Frustrated by a lack of progress, the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), a broad coalition of opposition groups headed by the SPA, called on Wednesday for a campaign of civil disobedience to crank up the pressure on the military.
“We have all options open from now on,” Ahmed Rabie, an influential SPA member, told Reuters. “If (the council) insists on holding on to power, we are going to consider this a military coup, and we will escalate our tactics, peacefully.”