CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday to pressure transitional authorities, demanding justice for those killed in the uprising last year that led to the military’s ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
As the rallies got underway, police used tear gas to disperse protesters marching on a road leading to the airport in the capital, Khartoum. There were no immediate reports of causalities.
The “million-man march” was called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, and the so-called Resistance Committees, which were incremental in the protests against al-Bashir and the generals who took over power for months after his removal.
Security forces closed off major roads and streets leading to government and military headquarters in Khartoum ahead of the protests, which fall on the anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan’s previously elected government.
The protests are also the first major demonstrations since rallies last year — three months after al-Bashir ouster — when hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sudan’s capital and elsewhere in the country to pressure then-ruling military council to hand over power to a civilian government.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Monday sought to reassure the protesters, saying that their demands are “legitimate” and “necessary to correct the revolution’s track.”
He said the military-civilian alliance that rules Sudan during this transitional period was “sensitive and critical,” adding that there are many “difficulties” that threaten its stability. He did not elaborate.
Hamdok promised his transitional government would work to carry out the protesters’ demands in the next two weeks.
“In the coming days, a number of decisive decisions […] will follow,” he said. “Some of them may have a significant impact — politically, economically and socially — and some parties will try to use them to fuel and create instability.”
Earlier in June, security forces arrested at least nine leaders of al-Bashir’s now dissolved National Congress Party and Islamists for plotting “hostilities” against the government, Information Minister Faisal Saleh said on Monday.
They were arrested in a raid on a house in Khartoum on June 18, and brought to prosecutors for further investigations, Saleh said.
Sudan’s former foreign minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, who also headed al-Bashir’s party, was arrested Monday from his Khartoum home, the party said in a statement. The party’s leaders were holding a “normal societal activity” when he was arrested, the statement said.
Al-Bashir had fired Ghandour in February last year, after he told reporters that the government was behind seven months on paying diplomats’ salaries. The former top diplomat was appointed the party chairman after al-Bashir’s removal in April last year.
Last August, the protests, along with international pressure, forced the generals to sign a power-sharing deal with the protesters, creating a joint civilian-military “sovereign council.” However, the civilians part of the government has struggled to assert authority in the face of the military’s power.
The protest organizers also called for the appointment of civilian governors for Sudan’s provinces and making peace with the country’s rebels who were part of the power-sharing deal.
They also called for swift, public trails for al-Bashir and top officials in his government. Al-Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since his removal, faces an array of accusations related to the 1989 coup and the crackdown against the uprising against his rule.
The crowds gathered in Khartoum and its twin city, Omdurman, as well as in several other cities. Footage circulated online showed protesters marching peacefully, waving Sudanese flags. Some were seen wearing face masks but few observed social distancing requirements to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, in central Darfur province, hundreds of people, mostly displaced and refugees, were camping for the second day outside government buildings in the town of Nitrite.
The protesters call for the resignation of the provincial government, and a halt to attacks by government-sanctioned armed groups, said Adam Regal, a spokesman for a local organization that helps run refugee camps in the area.
Regal shared footage showing hundreds of people, mostly women, holding signs that read: “Freedom, Peace and Justice,” the slogan of the uprising against al-Bashir.
Image: In this Nov. 19, 2019 file photo, people gather as they celebrate first anniversary of mass protests that led to the ouster of former president and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan. On Thursday, June 25, 2020, the United States, Germany and France have pledged hundreds of millions in aid to Sudan. The funds are intended to help the struggling African nation a year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of its long-time autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir.(AP Photo, File)