NAIROBI, Kenya – Major protests were expected in Sudan on Saturday as pro-democracy groups planned to defy a military coup this week that ushered in a new era of uncertainty for one of Africa’s largest countries.
Activists called for a “march of millions” days after Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military commander, dissolved the joint civil-military government formed after the ouster of Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019, a longtime Sudanese dictator. General al-Burhan on Monday ordered the arrests of the prime minister and other top civilian leaders, imposed a state of emergency across the country, and said the military would form a new government. He promised elections in July 2023.
The news led to large-scale demonstrations as protesters in the capital, Khartoum, and other Sudanese cities called for the return of civilian authorities. Security forces responded with violence, killing at least seven people and injuring 170 others, pro-democracy reports. Central Committee of Sudanese Physicians. Professional and trade union unions called for civil disobedience; many banks, schools, and shops closed their doors, and many federal and state government workers stayed at home.
Analysts say Saturday’s protests and the response of security forces to them would be a litmus test for an army that has a history of bloody repression. Many Sudanese vividly remember June 3, 2019, when the security forces violently dispersed protests in the capital that raped and killed dozens of people and dumped some of their bodies on the Nile.
US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said he spoke with him General al-Burhan and other top officials on Friday and warned against a violent response to planned rallies.
“The Sudanese people should be allowed to protest peacefully this weekend, and the United States will be closely monitored,” he said. Feltman he said in a Twitter post.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken reinforced that message. “The United States continues to support the people of Sudan in their nonviolent struggle for democracy. he said on Twitter. “Sudanese security forces must respect human rights; any violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable. “
Pro-democracy groups rejected the possibility of recognition or negotiation with the military government and instead demanded that all civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is now under house arrest, release. Tensions over the possibility of a coup have been brewing for months, with civilian groups accusing the military of seeking to seize power and resisting efforts to hold commanders accountable for atrocities under Mr al-Bashir, a deposed dictator.
On Saturday, protests were expected not only in Sudan but also in cities around the world with large Sudanese populations. Protesters against the coup took to the streets on Saturday morning in Jakarta, Indonesia and in Australian cities, including Sydney and the capital Canberra.
“We were shocked by what was happening in Sudan,” Hussein Yasin, a Sudanese living in the UK, said over the phone. He said protests were being organized in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and other cities and that protesters would call on British lawmakers to put pressure on Sudanese generals to relinquish power.
“We protest that we say no to a military coup and that to democracy,” Mr Yasin said.
Amnesty International on Friday called on Sudanese generals to investigate the killings of protesters earlier in the week and to prosecute those involved.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and South Africa, said military leaders “must not make a mistake: the world is watching and will not allow further bloodshed.”
The coup and the protests that follow are the latest signs of instability in a northeastern African country hampered by growing economic hardship, a coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of medicines and fuel. This week, the U.S. froze $ 700 million in direct aid to the Sudanese government, the World Bank stopped all payouts country, and the European Union threatened follow suit.
The African Union suspended Sudan and the generals were condemned by leaders and governments around the world. President Biden said he “admires the courage of Sudanese who demand that their voices be heard”.
Some in the Sudanese military have been surprised by the level of public resistance to the coup, and rivalries between the generals are beginning 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 still hangs in the balance,” he said.