Sudan protesters rally as army tightens grip

AFP , Saturday 13 Nov 2021

Hundreds of Sudanese protesters took to the streets Saturday despite a heavy security presence, two days after the military sought to tighten its grip by forming a new ruling council.

A young Sudanese man stands in front of a street barricades built overnight by anti-coup demonstrators in the capital Khartoum, following calls for civil disobedience to protest last month s military coup, on November 7, 2021. AFP

The pro-democracy protests come nearly three weeks after top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan ousted the government, detained the civilian leadership and declared a state of emergency.

"Dozens gathered and began chanting against military rule and marched on to meet up with other rallies," said Mohieddine Hassan, a witness from Al-Shajarah district in southern Khartoum.

The military's October 25 takeover drew widespread international condemnation, as did a deadly crackdown on street demonstrations by people demanding it restore the country's democratic transition.

Any hopes the demonstrators had that the military would back down were dashed Thursday, when Burhan named himself as the head of a new ruling Sovereign Council that excludes the country's main civilian bloc, triggering more condemnation from the West.

"No, no to military rule", "Civilian (rule) is the people's choice", and "Down with the entire council", the protesters in southern Khartoum shouted on Saturday.

Hundreds of protesters also gathered in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, witnesses there said.

The protests occurred despite the heavy presence of military, police and paramilitary forces in Khartoum, where bridges connecting the capital to neighbouring cities were sealed off, AFP correspondents reported.

The security forces also blocked roads leading to the army headquarters in Khartoum, the site of a mass sit-in protest in 2019 that led to the ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir, the correspondents added.

Call for restraint

The United Nations has called on the security forces to refrain from violence.

"In light of tomorrow's demonstrations in #Sudan I once again call upon the security forces to exercise utmost restraint and respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression," said UN Special Representative for Sudan Volker Perthes.

Saturday's demonstrations have largely been organised by informal groups known as "resistance committees" in neighbourhoods and towns across the country which emerged during the anti-Bashir demonstrations in 2019.

The committees have called for multiple protests since the coup and mobilised crowds via text messages as Sudan has largely remained under a rigorous internet outage with phone lines intermittently disrupted.

But despite the efforts, "civilian opposition to the coup has been diffuse and fragmented", Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group said in a report last week.

The crackdown on demonstrations so far has left dead at least 15 people, according to an independent union of medics, leading to punitive measures by the international community.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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