Sudanese anti-coup protesters manned barricades in Khartoum on Sunday, a day after a deadly crackdown on mass rallies, as the country’s defiant civil disobedience campaign against the military takeover entered its seventh day.
Tens of thousands had turned out across the country for Saturday’s demonstrations, marching against the army’s October 25 power grab, when top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, and detained Sudan’s civilian leadership.
The move sparked a chorus of international condemnation and punitive aid cuts, with world powers demanding a swift return to civilian rule and calling for the military to show “restraint” against protesters.
Volker Perthes, a UN special representative to Sudan, said on Sunday he had met with detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is under armed guard by the ruling military junta.
“He (Hamdok) remains well but under house arrest,”Perthes said. “We discussed options for mediation and the way forward for Sudan. I will continue these efforts with other Sudanese stakeholders.”
The independent Central Committee of Sudan’s Doctors said Sunday that militias shot dead a protester on the day of the coup, pushing its overall toll to 12 dead.
A senior US official had estimated at least 20 to 30 people had been killed before Saturday’s protests.
At least three people were shot dead and more than 100 wounded during Saturday’s demonstrations, according to medics, who reported those killed had bullet wounds to the head, chest, or stomach. Police forces denied the killings or using live rounds.
“No, no, to military rule,” protesters carrying Sudanese flags chanted as they marched around the capital and other cities, as forces fired tear gas to break them up.
Lifting the blockade
Sudan had been ruled since August 2019 by a joint civilian-military council as part of the now derailed transition to full civilian rule.
After leading the coup, Burhan promised that a “new civilian” government would be formed.
On Sunday, demonstrators who had blocked the eastern trade hub of Port Sudan since mid-September in protest against Hamdok’s government said they would lift the blockade.
“We decided to lift the blockade on the port and the land route (to Khartoum) for a month until the formation of a new government, to give it a chance” to find a solution for the country’s east, said protest leader Abdallah Abouchar.
Also on Sunday, Sudan TV reported that Burhan sacked the prosecutor general following the release of several figures linked to ousted regime president Omar al-Bashir.
US President Joe Biden has called the coup a “grave setback”, while the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership for the “unconstitutional” takeover.
The World Bank and the United States froze aid, a move that will hit hard in a country already mired in a dire economic crisis.
But Burhan – who became de facto leader after hard-line Bashir was ousted and jailed in 2019 following huge youth-led protests – has insisted the military takeover was “not a coup”.
Instead, Burhan says he wants to “rectify the course of the Sudanese transition”.
Soldiers on the streets
Demonstrations on Saturday rocked many cities across Sudan, including in the eastern states of Gedaref and Kassala, as well as in North Kordofan and White Nile, witnesses and AFP correspondents said.
As night fell Saturday, many protests in Khartoum and the capital’s twin city of Omdurman thinned out. But on Sunday morning protesters were back on the streets, again using rocks and tires to block roads.
Shops remain largely shut in Khartoum, where many government employees are refusing to work as part of a nationwide protest campaign.
Soldiers from the army and the much-feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were seen on many streets in Khartoum and Omdurman.
Security forces have set up random checkpoints on the streets, frisking passers-by and randomly searching cars.
Phone lines, which were largely down on Saturday, were back apart from intermittent disruptions. But internet access has been cut off since the army’s takeover.
Sudan has enjoyed only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956 and spent decades riven by civil war.
Burhan was a general under Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule, and analysts said the coup aimed to maintain the army’s traditional control over the northeast African country.