Sudanese activists geared for 'march of millions' protest against military coup

·3-min read

Anti-coup protesters in Sudan are maintaining pressure on the military with a call for a "march of millions" to take to the streets. Circumventing restrictions on the internet and reduced phone signals, they handed out fliers for the demonstrations on Saturday.

At least 11 protesters have been killed and nearly 200 wounded in clashes with security forces since Monday when General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the country's civilian-led government – the Sovereign Council – and ordered the detention of several top politicians, including the prime minister Abdallah Hamdok.

Hamdok has been placed under house arrest while other civilian leaders are in military custody.

Al-Burhan – Sudan's de facto leader since the 2019 removal of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir – has insisted the military's takeover was not a coup but only meant to stop faction fighting among the groups on the council.

On Friday he said the army was negotiating with Hamdok to form a new government.

'Talks'

"We were sending him people and telling him ... complete the path with us," Burhan said in the speech, which was broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV.

"We told him that we cleaned the stage for you ... he is free to form the government. We will not intervene in the government formation. Anyone he will bring, we will not intervene at all."

However, Hamdok's allies say he has refused requests to cooperate and has demanded civilian power-sharing be restored and arrested ministers freed.

Protesters on the streets have been as defiant as Hamdok.

"Confronting peaceful protesters with gunfire is something that should not be tolerated," said Haitham Mohamed in Khartoum. "It will not make us back down; it only strengthens our resolve."

Many civil servants and doctors are refusing to work until the transitional government is restored.

They have been emboldened by the response from the international community.

Global pressure

Before setting off for the G20 summit in Rome, the US President Joe Biden denounced the coup as a grave setback.

"Our message to Sudan's military authorities is overwhelming and clear: the Sudanese people must be allowed to protest peacefully and the civilian-led transitional government must be restored," Biden said.

On Thursday the UN Security Council expressed serious concern over the situation in the country.

"The council urges all sides to engage in dialogue without pre-conditions," it said.

The World Bank and the United States have frozen aid worth nearly 3 billion euros, while the African Union has suspended Sudan's membership over what it termed the unconstitutional takeover.

Infighting

The army's move came on the back of rifts between groups leading the transition after the departure of Bashir who had ruled for three decades.

The Forces for Freedom and Change bloc, which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests in 2019 and chose Hamdok as prime minister, splintered into two groups, one of which backed a military rule.

"The civilian government must go back to carry out its duties," leaders from the mainstream FFC said in a statement. "All political detainees should be released."

Activists consider the weekend could signify a turning point for the future of democracy in the country.

"Either we return to a dictatorship or we manage to make our opposition heard," said one.

"Of course I'm afraid. I know it's going to be violent. But my biggest fear is not what might happen on Saturday, but rather the bleak future that awaits us if we don't get out and demonstrate against this coup."

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