Massive protests against coup violently repressed in Sudan

The date remains engraved. On December 19, 2018, in the town of Atbara, 250 kilometers north of Khartoum, the local branch of the National Congress, the party of President Omar Al-Bashir, was set on fire by demonstrators calling for the fall of the regime, after the tripling the price of bread. The revolt then spread like wildfire, leading, five months later, on April 11, to the fall of the dictator.

“We brought down a regime that had been in place for thirty years. Why shouldn’t we bring down a junta that had been in existence for two months? “, launches a demonstrator swollen with optimism, while tens of thousands of people gathered, Sunday, December 19, in the heart of Khartoum, to denounce the coup d’état led on October 25 by General Abdel Fattah Al-Bourhane .

On the avenue leading to the presidential palace, the processions were first driven back by a shower of tear gas and warning shots. The armed forces, the police and the militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces had been deployed en masse to block the main roads of the capital.

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Short-lived euphoria

Joined by the demonstrators from Omdourman and Bahri, the twin cities of Khartoum, who succeeded in forcing the passage, the crowd ended up making their way to the gates of power. For a few hours, pro-democracy activists believed that anything was possible. Men, women, children, all social classes combined, some who came by bus from all over the country, demanded civil power.

“The army is that of Sudan, the army is not that of Bourhane”, exclaims a demonstrator in front of a handful of soldiers of the regular army, cigarette in the beak, guns slung, perched on armored vehicles who opened the way in front of the crowd. “We have no problem with the army as an institution. But this gang of generals who have taken power to protect their own interests must end up behind bars and the army must get out of politics ”, sums up a protester, Mariam Ishaq, with her fingers raised in victory.

The euphoria lasted for a while. While the resistance committees had called for the organization of a peaceful sit-in outside the gates of the palace, the repression again violently fell on the demonstrators. Nearly three hundred people were injured, reports a union of doctors, most suffering from suffocation. “Three people were shot in the head, a dozen others by tear gas canisters in the face, two women were raped by men in uniform, and a hospital was besieged by the police,” reports Nazim Siraj, from the Hadherin association which provides care to demonstrators.

Forced to retreat, thousands of people dispersed in the streets of the city center. The slogans claiming ” Power to the people “, decrying General Al-Bourhane and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, echoed late into the night.

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Behind the scenes, Abdallah Hamdok is struggling. “Without strategy”, confides a loved one. Isolated from his former political allies who firmly reject the agreement he signed with the junta on November 21, he has not yet succeeded in forming a government. “The Prime Minister made a serious mistake. He is in a weak position ”, Judge Yassir Arman, a former adviser, for whom Abdallah Hamdok does not have the power to overturn decisions taken by General Al-Bourhane since October 25.

Attempts to structure the opposition

To justify its coup, the junta castigated the divisions within the Forces for Freedom and Change, a coalition of civilian parties resulting from the revolution against Al-Bashir. During their talks with the Western chancelleries, the generals insist that the opposition is incapable of structuring itself.

In the midst of a state of emergency, however, attempts are emerging. Friday, December 17, while many political figures, recently released by the putschists, were trying to organize a meeting in the north of the capital, the rally turned sour. Tear gas was fired to disperse the crowd of supporters.

Also read: UN Secretary-General calls on Sudanese authorities to respect press freedom

The Sudanese Professionals Association, spearheading the protest, denounces a serious attack on freedom of assembly and expression. The union group considers that the agreement signed by the Prime Minister with the junta is a continuation of the coup d’état and exposes the population to systematic violence from the forces of repression.

“Our revolution is causing fear beyond our borders. In Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Riyadh and throughout the African continent, our peaceful movement is disturbing, because, if it is victorious, it will be an example to follow ”, said a protester busy plotting the date of the next protest on a wall. The resistance committees called for a new mobilization on December 25.

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Massive protests against coup violently repressed in Sudan

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