Tear gas fired at Sudan protests as thousands rally against coup

January 6, 2022 People's Journal 133 views

AFP — Sudanese forces fired tear gas Tuesday at anti-coup protesters demanding civilian rule days after the prime minister resigned, as the US and EU warned the military against naming their own successor.

Shouting “No, no to military rule”, protesters called for the disbandment of Sudan’s ruling council headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led an October 25 coup, detaining the then Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and derailing a transition to a full civilian government.

Streets leading to the presidential palace and army headquarters in the capital Khartoum were sealed off by hefty deployments of troops, riot police and paramilitary units, witnesses said.

Burhan had dismissed both Hamdok and the government in the October coup, dismantling a precarious power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that had been established in the wake of the April 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar-al-Bashir.

The military chief reinstated Hamdok on November 21, a deal the prime minister accepted partly on the promise of elections in mid-2023 — but the protest movement slammed the deal as a “betrayal” and kept up its rallies.

Hamdok then resigned on Sunday — six weeks after he was reappointed by Burhan — saying the country was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival”.

‘People’s choice’

On Tuesday, the United States, European Union, Britain and Norway warned the military against naming their own successor to Hamdok, saying it would “not support a prime minister or government appointed without the involvement of a broad range of civilian stakeholders”.

The four Western powers said that they still believed in the democratic transition of Sudan, but issued a veiled warning to the military if it does not move forward.

“In the absence of progress, we would look to accelerate efforts to hold those actors impeding the democratic process accountable,” the statement read.

“Unilateral action to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet would undermine those institutions’ credibility and risks plunging the nation into conflict,” it added.

The coup — one of several in Sudan’s post-independence history — has triggered mass demonstrations and a bloody crackdown that has left at least 57 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to the independent Doctors’ Committee.

On Tuesday, security forces fired tear gas near the palace, as well as at rallies in suburbs north of Khartoum and in the eastern city of Port Sudan.

Protesters also gathered in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman and the South Darfur state capital Nyala, taking the total on the streets across the country into the thousands.

Emad Mohamed, a witness in Wad Madani, south of Khartoum, said protesters carried the Sudanese flag and were beating drums as they chanted “civilian rule is the people’s choice”.

Demonstrators in east Khartoum “burnt car tyres and built brick barricades on the streets,” witness Sawsan Salah said. Other protesters urged the military “to go back to the barracks.”

Protests calmed later on Tuesday evening.

‘Urgent action’

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday that he “respects” Hamdok’s decision and called for “urgent action” to resolve the crisis.

UN chief Antonio Guterres “regrets that a political understanding on the way forward is not in place despite the gravity of the situation in Sudan”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday.

On Tuesday, Burhan met with US Charge d’Affairs Brian Shukan, stressing the need to “continue dialogue between all sides to come up with a national consensus programme,” according to a statement by Burhan’s office.

His office also said he had met with UN special representative Volker Perthes over “the current political situation” and discussed “speeding up the appointment of a new prime minister.”

Activists online have urged demonstrators to keep heading to the presidential palace “until victory is achieved”, according to the Sudanese Professionals Association, an alliance of independent trade unions that was instrumental in the anti-Bashir protests.