KHARTOUM: Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters rallied on Sunday for a civilian-led transition to democracy, three years since the start of mass demonstrations that led to the ouster of veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir.
Security forces fired tear gas canisters — leaving several wounded, witnesses said — as activists at the presidential palace in Khartoum chanted slogans against military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led a coup on Oct 25.
“The people want the downfall of Burhan,” the protesters shouted as additional security forces were deployed to surround the swelling crowd.
Sudan’s generals in the post-Bashir transition government launched their coup almost two months ago and held civilian leader Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under effective house arrest for weeks but reinstated him on Nov 21.
The move alienated many of Hamdok’s pro-democracy supporters, who dismissed it as providing a cloak of legitimacy for Burhan’s coup.
“Any coup, even after the reinstatement of Hamdok, is unacceptable,” a protester aged in his twenties said as thousands waving Sudanese flags marched past him.
“Our glorious December revolution is seeking civil institutions, not particular individuals.”
Hamdok, who has argued he wants to avoid further bloodshed, warned of “the country’s slide toward the abyss,” urging restraint from the protesters.
“We’re facing today a sizeable regression in the path of our revolution that threatens the security of the nation, its unity and its stability,” the premier said.
Protest organisers have however vowed, in a key slogan, that they want “no negotiation, no partnership and no legitimacy” for the current leadership.
Another demonstrator, in his early thirties and also draped in a Sudanese flag, said “I came out today in complete refusal of the political agreement! “This deal doesn’t represent the people. We have one demand and that’s a civilian government, not one that ends up being under military control.” Previous protests against the military takeover have been forcibly dispersed.
Nationwide, at least 45 people have been killed and scores more wounded, according to the independent Doctors’ Committee.
On Sunday, authorities shut off bridges linking the capital with its twin city Omdurman, but large crowds still gathered. “The numbers are huge and security forces can’t control them,” said one man who witnessed the protests in Omdurman.