One person has been killed and several others injured during largely peaceful demonstrations in Sudan, a government spokesman said, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets demanding faster reform and greater civilian rule in the country’s transition towards democracy.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sudanese cities on Tuesday despite a coronavirus lockdown to demand a transition towards democracy after the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir last year.
Waving Sudanese flags, demonstrators gathered in the capital, Khartoum, and its twin cities, Khartoum North and Omdurman, after the government closed roads and bridges leading to the centre of the capital.
Police used tear gas to disperse protesters marching on a road leading to the airport in Khartoum. There were no immediate reports of causalities.
Similar protests also took place in Kassala in eastern Sudan and in the restive region of Darfur. They chanted „freedom, peace and justice“, the slogan of the anti-al-Bashir movement.
Some protesters blocked streets with burning tyres.
The „million-man march“ was called by the Sudanese Professionals‘ Association, and the so-called Resistance Committees, which were instrumental in the protests against al-Bashir and the generals who took over power for months after his removal. […]
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the protesters rallied after weeks of organising in a bid to „correct the path of the revolution“.
Demonstrators also say justice has not been served over the killing of protesters since December 2018, when the popular movement against al-Bashir began.
Protesters are also saying that the transitional government handed over „major files“ to the military, which under the power-sharing deal, were meant to oversee security issues and not „day-to-day“ concerns such as the economy.
The protest organisers also called for the appointment of civilian governors for Sudan’s provinces and making peace with the country’s rebels who were part of the power-sharing deal.
They also called for swift, public trials for al-Bashir and top officials in his government. Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since his removal, faces an array of accusations related to the 1989 coup and the crackdown against the uprising against his rule. […]
Meanwhile, in central Darfur province, hundreds of people, mostly displaced and refugees, were camping for the second day outside government buildings in the town of Nitrite.
The protesters call for the resignation of the provincial government, and a halt to attacks by government-sanctioned armed groups, said Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organisation that helps run refugee camps in the area.
Regal shared footage showing hundreds of people, mostly women, holding signs that read: „Freedom, Peace and Justice,“ the slogan of the uprising against al-Bashir.
Hundreds of thousands of people participated in demonstrations in the capitals of the five Darfur states and other towns in Darfur. They demanded a just peace, disarmament of militias, and achieving the goals of the revolution.
Demonstrations took place in many camps for the displaced as well, including Kalma, Ardamata, Abushouk, El Hamidiya, Zamzam, Murnei, Ronga Tas, and Mukjar.
The demonstrators demanded security, disarmament of the militias, dismissal of the military governors, and corrections of the course of the revolution.
The coordination of the Resistance Committees in Ed Daein, capital of East Darfur, submitted a memorandum to the acting state governor demanding the dismissal of 13 officials, including directors of ministries. The memorandum also called for a restructuring of the Economic Committee to include the forces of the revolution.
The memorandum demanded the formation of a committee to remove ‘empowerment’ (tamkin)*, and recover stolen endowment funds. It also calls for the formation of a legal committee to investigate suspicious or apparently fraudulent rezoning projects. The memorandum gave the governor of the state 72 hours to implement the demands. It threatens with escalation in the event that the demands are not met.
In El Geneina in West Darfur, the Resistance Committees delivered a memorandum to the governor, demanding to completion of the revolution, and retribution for the protestors killed during demonstrations. They also called for better border control to prevent smuggling, and publication of the results of the investigation into the violent events in Kerending camp at the end of 2019, when more than 80 people were killed and at least 47,000 displaced. They seek the dismissal of remnants of the Al Bashir regime, guarantees that this year’s crops can be harvested, and more progress in dismantling ‘empowerment’ (tamkin)* and recovering stolen funds. The memorandum gave the governor of West Darfur 72 hours to respond to the demands.
The coordination of the Resistance Committees in North Darfur called for achieving a just and comprehensive peace that addresses the roots of the conflicts in the country since independence. In a statement it called for the establishment of rule of law, reform, a handover to the ICC of all those indicted, the truth about what happened during the violent dismantling of the Khartoum sit-in on June 3, 2019, and bring all those responsible for violence to justice.
It also seeks a state committee for the removal of empowerment (tamkin)*, and an immediate investigation into corruption in the state and the El Mawasir Market Ponzi scheme. The North Darfur Resistance Committees want civilian power structures in the state as soon as possible, but not established by partisan quotas. The memorandum calls for a fundamental restructuring of the military and the security institutions, and a single national army under the full supervision of a civilian cabinet.
Atbara: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Atbara in River Nile state. They delivered a memorandum with demands to the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), among them a correction of the course of the revolution, the appointment of civilian governors, forming the Legislative Council, and achieving peace, justice, and retribution.
In Dongola in Northern State hundreds of thousands protestors gathered to demonstrate. A statement issued by the Resistance Committees, the Dongola Revolutionaries and the Kush Liberation Movement, demanded that all the forces of the revolution should adhere to what was stated in the Constitutional Document. They called for a swift appointment of civilian governors, forming the Legislative Council, and improving the economic situation and the living conditions of the people.
Eastern Sudan: El Gedaref, Kassala, Port Sudan and other eastern Sudanese cities and towns witnessed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallying in Marches of the Millions. The organisers quoted from a memo during their speeches. That memo specifies state-specific demands, which include an end to the shortages of water, and an end to corruption and empowerment (tamkin).
The Resistance Committees in Port Sudan demanded that perpetrators of all crimes be brought to justice, including those responsible for the massacre at the sit-in in front of the army command last year, and the massacre in Port Sudan on January 29, 2005. They demanded transitional justice, peace, peaceful coexistence and the development of mechanisms for dialogue, and the dismissal of affiliates of the deposed regime in localities and ministries.
They also condemned the new bread prices that were imposed in May without consulting the revolutionary forces and the Resistance Committees. Over the past months there have been serious shortages of bread in Port Sudan. The Resistance Committees pointed out that the government’s lack of commitment led to the return of flour smuggling, manipulation of food prices, and the closure of bakeries.They claimed that the state government is not able to face the crises. They attributed the crises to manipulation of affiliates of the former regime, demanding their dismissal as officials.
Southern and central Sudan: Hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets of Kordofan, Blue Nile state, Sennar, White Nile state, and El Gezira to participate in Marches of the Millions. One of the largest rallies took place in El Obeid, capital of North Kordofan. Similar demonstrations were organised in Kadugli, El Nahud, El Fula and other cities in the state. In Blue Nile state, tens of thousands demonstrated in Ed Damazin and neighbouring Roseires. In central Sudan, rallies and marches were organised in Wad Madani in El Gezira, Kosti in White Nile state, Singa in Sennar and other towns and villages. At all these demonstrations speakers stressed that the goal of the marches is to correct the course of the revolution
The protesters are angry over rocketing inflation and shortages of fuel, electricity, and basic commodities, but are also giving voice to a deeper fear that the military has retained its power and out-maneuvered the civilian-led government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok.
“The revolution is at risk,” said Hussam Ali, a member of a Khartoum resistance committee – the neighbourhood groups that were at the forefront of last year’s protests. “We feel that the military has arranged its cards and still has greed for power.”
But activists are now demanding the government honour its commitments to create a transitional parliament that represents all regions of the country; appoint civilian governors; finalise peace deals; and hold those responsible for ordering the killing of protestors to account.
Despite squabbles within the FFC over policy direction and the competition for political jobs, “the revolution continues and its power is still alive,” said Sara, a university medical student, who was on the frontlines of last year’s mass demonstrations and gave only her first name out of security concerns. […]
Military-run companies dominate the economy, but none of the profits – estimated at $2 billion annually – reach the treasury, according to Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Badawi. That could now change. The government said on Sunday that it would take over all state firms – including those owned by the security forces – as part of an International Monetary Fund-monitored programme, which would dent the influence of the shadow state.
An even bigger relief for Sudan would be if it could get help on rescheduling the arrears on the $60 billion it owes lenders. A first step would be if Washington removes Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism – a designation that compels the US to vote against debt relief at the World Bank and the IMF. So far, the US administration has shown little inclination to fast-track the process. […]
But Hemeti’s influence is growing. The RSF is seen as a rival to the regular army, and its deployment to the wars in Yemen and Libya has cemented support for Hemeti from among the Gulf states – one of a number of foreign influences on the transition. The former warlord also retains a major stake in the poorly regulated gold business. The profits from gold mines he seized in the western Darfur region are substantial enough for him to pledge last year to donate $1 billion to the central bank, according to a Global Witness investigation.
The RSF now presents itself as the public’s protector in the fight against COVID-19, running a quarantine centre, disinfecting the streets, and providing free medical advice. With a Canada-based lobbying firm, Dickens & Madson, helping to boost his image, some believe Hemeti is preparing for an election run in 2022.
That complicates the work of Nabil Adib, the rights lawyer who is leading the government investigation into the massacre last June. He recently admitted his committee is starved of funds, and Sudan’s judiciary may not even be up to the task of ensuring a fair trial when members of security forces are involved.
“Sudan has not had an independent, impartial, and transparent judiciary for the past 30 years,” Musad Mohamed Ali, the executive director of the US-based African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, told TNH. “It lacks practical experience in human rights violations.” …
A key goal of the transitional government is to end the historical conflicts waged in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan by armed groups demanding political recognition – and an end to the marginalisation of these “periphery regions”.
Peace talks between the government and the umbrella Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) – which groups the armed opposition – began in Juba, South Sudan, last year and initially went well, but momentum stalled amid haggling over government positions.
Negotiations are now underway in Khartoum, but some key outstanding issues remain. They include how many seats the groups will get in the future transitional assembly and the timeframe for the integration of their men into the national army — at the moment seen as taking around four years.
With all sides under domestic and international pressure, there has been reported agreement this week on the number of seats they will be allotted on the Sovereign Council and ministries to be assigned to the SRF.
Two leaders are outside the SRF coalition: Abdul Wahid, the head of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement in Darfur, and Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, who commands the largest faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.
Both men are especially wary of the intentions of the military. But while al-Hilu has pursued separate talks with the government, fighting has continued in Wahid’s enclave in the Jebel Marra mountains.
Danger in Darfur
Meanwhile, localised violence has flared in Sudan’s eastern states, South Kordofan, and especially Darfur.
Despite a string of deadly attacks in Darfur this year, sparked by land and identity disputes, the hybrid African Union-UN peacekeeping operation known as UNAMID is set to withdraw. That decision is seen as premature by the SRF and African diplomats on the UN Security Council.
UNAMID has been heavily criticised in the past, both by human rights groups over its inability to prevent violence and by the former regime in Khartoum, which regarded the peacekeepers as an unwelcome observer of its military operations in the region.
Nevertheless, Hamdok had at the beginning of the year asked the UN Security Council to launch an expanded UN peacekeeping mission for the entire country, but was forced to backtrack by the Sovereign Council.