Sudanese security forces shot dead two people on Saturday during mass protests against a recent military coup in the country, a medical union said. The shooting came despite repeated calls from the West to new Sudanese military rulers to show restraint and allow peaceful protests.
Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets, where whistles and drums accompanied the shouts of “Revolution” in protest of Monday’s coup, which threatens to derail the country’s sudden transition to democracy.
Pro-democracy groups have called for protests across the country to demand the re-establishment of a deposed transitional government and the release of high-ranking political figures from detention.
The United States and the United Nations have warned Sudan’s powerful General Abdel-Fattah Burhan that they see the military’s treatment of protesters as a test, and called for restraint.
Burhan argued that the transition to democracy would continue despite a military takeover, and said he would soon form a new technocratic government. But the pro-democracy movement in Sudan fears the military does not intend to soften its grip and will instead appoint policies it can control.
Saturday’s protests are likely to increase pressure on generals condemned by the U.S. and other Western nations to rebuild a civilian-led government.
Crowds began gathering in the capital, Khartoum and its sister city, Omdurman, on Saturday afternoon. The hikers chanted. “Forgive me, Burhan,” and “Revolution.” Some held up banners reading, “It’s impossible to go back.”
The demonstrations were convened by Sudanese experts Assn. and so-called resistance committees. Both were at the forefront of the uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Omar Bashir and his Islamist government in 2019. They also call for the disbandment of paramilitary groups and the restructuring of military, intelligence and security agencies.
One of the protesters killed on Saturday in Omdurman was shot in the head and the other in the abdomen, the Sudanese Committee of Doctors said.
The committee, part of Sudanese experts Assn., Said security forces used live ammunition against protesters in and around Omdurman. An unknown number of protesters were also injured.
Elsewhere, security forces fired tear gas at protesters as they tried to cross the Manshia Bridge over the Nile River to reach the center of Khartoum, said Mohammed Yousef Mustafa, a spokesman for the association of experts.
“Again without intervening in the division of power with the military council,” he said as he attended the area protest.
On Saturday, security forces blocked major roads and bridges connecting Khartoum neighborhoods. Security was tight in the city center and in front of the military headquarters, at the site of a major sit-in attack during the 2019 uprising.
Since the military takeover, street protests have taken place every day. According to the Sudanese Medical Committee and activists, Saturday’s death toll has raised the total number of people killed by security forces since the coup to 11. The United Nations says at least 170 others were injured. In recent days, soldiers have fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters against the coup, and beat protesters with sticks.
Meanwhile, talks are under way to try to alleviate the crisis.
Late Friday, UN Special Envoy for Sudan Volker Perthes met with General Mohammed Hamdan Dagal, the leader of the coup that was near Burhan. Dagalo commands terrible forces for quick support, a paramilitary unit that controls the streets of Khartoum and played an important role in the coup.
He said the UN transition mission to Sudan facilitates dialogue, “which remains the only way to a peaceful solution to the current crisis” between top generals and civilian leaders.
A Sudanese military official said on Saturday that a UN-backed national committee had begun separate meetings with Prime Minister Abdallo Hamdok and Burhan to find common ground.
The official said Hamdok demanded the release of all government officials and political figures arrested after the coup. Burhan, the official said, gave his first consent to the release of “most” detainees, but refused to release others, including Khalid Omar, the cabinet’s cabinet minister, saying they face charges of inciting soldiers to revolt.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to publish the information.
Meanwhile, the UN said it was closely monitoring the response of security forces on Saturday.
“They will be individually responsible for any excessive use of force against protesters,” said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Burhan argued that the takeover was necessary to prevent a civil war, noting that divisions between political groups were growing, he said. However, the takeover took place less than a month before he had to hand over power to a civilian.
Burhan has set himself up as head of the military council, which he said will rule Sudan until the July 2023 elections. Observers say it is doubtful that the military will allow a full transition to civilian rule, if only to prevent civilian control over large financial shares of the military.