Sudanese protestors rally despite tear gas, armed soldiers and phone blackout

·2-min read

Thousands of Sudanese pro-democracy protestors rallied Sunday outside the presidential palace in Khartoum, braving tear gas, a mass deployment of armed soldiers and a telecommunications blackout.

The protests are against an October coup launched by military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

As with previous demonstrations, which have become regular since the coup, the authorities have erected roadblocks, with shipping containers blocking Nile River bridges between the capital and outlying areas.

Internet and cell phone services have not worked since Sunday morning and security forces were perched on armoured vehicles with heavy machine guns watching passers-by.

Thousands of Sudanese nonetheless came out to demonstrate "in memory of the martyrs", with at least 54 protesters killed in street violence since the coup, according to medical sources.

Web monitoring group NetBlocks said mobile internet services were cut from mid-morning ahead of the planned protests.

Activists use the internet to organise demonstrations and broadcast live footage of the rallies.

Fragile civilian rule

Sudan, with a long history of military coups, has undergone a fragile journey toward civilian rule since the 2019 ouster of autocrat Omar al-Bashir following mass popular protests.

But the country has been plunged into turmoil since Burhan -- Sudan's de facto leader following the ouster of Bashir -- launched his coup and detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Hamdok was reinstated on 21 November, but mass protests have continued as demonstrators distrust veteran general Burhan and his promises to guide the country toward full democracy.

Humanitarian disaster in the making

Activists have kept up a two-month-long campaign of street demonstrations against the army's takeover, despite a crackdown that has seen at least 54 people killed and hundreds injured, according to the pro-democracy Doctors' Committee group.

The rallies have been repeatedly broken up by security forces firing rounds of tear gas, as well as charges by police wielding batons.

Last Thursday, six people were shot dead in Khartoum when security forces cracked down on mass rallies that saw tens of thousands take to the streets chanting "no to military rule".

Burhan insists the military's move "was not a coup" but a push to "rectify the course of the transition". On Friday a close advisor warned that "the demonstrations are only a waste of energy and time" which will not produce "any political solution".

Activists say 2022 will be "the year of the continuation of the resistance" in posts on social media.

Over 14 million people, one in three Sudanese, will need humanitarian aid next year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the highest level for a decade.

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