Nairobi, Kenya. On Saturday, Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and opened fire on crowds of demonstrators, killing three and injuring several others as one of Africa’s largest countries plunged deeper into the crisis caused by the recent military coup.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of the capital Khartoum and several other cities to protest the country’s military commander, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is gradually tightening control over Sudan after he overthrew the civilian prime minister. minister on October 25.
The demonstration was the latest in a series of actions, including strikes and civil disobedience, led by angry Sudanese, hoping they could force General Burkhan to reverse the coup. Their position is supported by the United States, which has called for the immediate restoration of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, and other Western countries, which have suspended aid to the poor country in an attempt to pressure the military.
But Sudanese generals appear to be heading in the opposite direction. General al-Burhan on Thursday appointed himself head of a new governing body that has expelled civilians with whom he shared power following the ouster of longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019.
On Saturday, the military seemed intent on drawing a line in the streets.
Soldiers closed the main bridge over the Nile, connecting Khartoum with its sister city Omdurman, a traditional hotbed of protests. Coils of barbed wire were scattered around major intersections to prevent protesters from reaching rally points near the presidential palace.
Understand the Sudanese coup
On October 25, a military-sponsored coup thwarted Sudan’s transition to civilian rule and plunged the country back into fear and uncertainty.
Despite this, thousands of people left the neighborhoods of both cities, confronting the police, who first fired tear gas and then opened fire.
By evening, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported that one person had been killed in the Omdurman shootout and many others had been injured. It says that the chaos that has engulfed the city is preventing some of the wounded from reaching hospitals.
According to eyewitnesses, police also chased the protesters down the side streets to prevent them from reaching the gathering points in the city center.
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“They don’t want people to unite,” said Mariam al-Mahdi, the ousted foreign minister and a leading figure in Sudan’s largest political party, in a telephone interview.
Ms. al-Mahdi, one of the few civilian leaders not arrested since the coup, is the daughter of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the last democratically elected Prime Minister of Sudan, who was ousted by Mr. al-Bashir in the 1989 coup.
The clashes on Saturday boded badly for an American-led effort to persuade General al-Burkhan to roll out a coup. On Friday, the Biden administration joined the chorus of international condemnation of what many saw as an attempt by General Burkhan to consolidate the coup.
The governing body, announced by the military on Thursday, is dominated by warlords and carefully selected civilian allies. While General al-Burhan insisted that he wanted to “defend the revolution” that toppled Mr al-Bashir in 2019 and steer Sudan towards free elections in 2023, few Western countries have accepted these promises.
On Friday, the United States called on the military to “refrain from further unilateral action that will halt Sudan’s hard-won progress towards reunification with the international community,” said President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan. said on twitter…
The giant crowds of young people that filled the streets of Sudan on Saturday highlighted how its leading generals underestimated the population’s resistance to the seizure of power, said Magdi el-Gizuli, a research fellow at the Rift Valley Institute.
But Mr al-Gizuli said General al-Burhan appeared to have seized power to prevent his own expulsion by lower-ranking officers who feared they might lose the privileges the military had amassed over decades in power.
Against this backdrop, he said, no amount of Western pressure would be likely to convince General Burkhan to change course.
“Failure to do this coup could mean a split in the army,” said Mr. El-Gizuli. “It will not be easy for them to reverse the steps they have taken.”