Opponents of the coup in Sudan vowed on Thursday to step up their protests after 15 civilians were reported killed in the deadliest day yet since last month’s takeover, risking more confrontation as the junta shows no sign of backing down.
More than three weeks since General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan derailed Sudan’s transition towards civilian rule, pro-democracy activists are facing an increasingly dangerous struggle in the streets. The deaths on Wednesday, tallied by medics aligned with the protest movement, bring the toll since the October 25th coup to at least 39.
The latest violence drew condemnation from western states which have suspended economic assistance since the coup. Despite the economic pressure – Sudan desperately needs aid – efforts to mediate a way out of the crisis have stalled.
Protesters described the behaviour of police during Wednesday’s protests as more aggressive than before, the latest sign that the military is looking to entrench its position. The military has said peaceful protests are allowed.
Confrontations continued on Thursday in Khartoum’s twin city Bahri, which saw the worst of Wednesday’s violence. A witness said security forces fired tear gas and live bullets as they removed barricades erected by protesters, who were dispersing and regrouping as they tried to protect them.
A group of neighbourhood resistance committees coordinating the protest movement in east Khartoum announced in a statement “open escalation” against the coup.
“Now we are making consultations among the resistance committees about upping the escalation against the coup,” a senior member of the committees said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pictures of people killed in earlier demonstrations were held aloft during Wednesday’s protests.
“I don’t think yesterday’s violence will have done much if anything to tamp down how strident the street has been in pushing back against the coup,” said Jonas Horner of Crisis Group. “The military misunderstood just how determined people on the street are to see the return of a civilian-led government.”
Police said 89 officers were wounded on Wednesday and that they recorded one civilian death and 30 cases of civilians choking on tear gas.
“There is increasing despondency, but the resilience of the ongoing protest movement gives hope that the coup could still be reversed. There is still a window of opportunity to do that, but it is narrowing,” said Ahmed Soliman of the Chatham House think tank.
Coup leader Gen Burhan last week appointed a new ruling council, a move western powers said complicated efforts to restore the transition towards democracy that began after long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled in an uprising in 2019.
But Gen Burhan has yet to name a new cabinet, leaving at least some possibility for a compromise over a new administraiton, though analysts say it underlines difficulties the general has faced securing civilian backing for a new government.
Cuts to internet and phone services since the coup have complicated mobilisation efforts for demonstrators. Still, hundreds of thousands took to the streets on two days of mass protests, and thousands attended Wednesday’s more scattered demonstrations.
The ambassador of Norway, which together with the United States and Britain steer western policy on Sudan, condemned violence against unarmed protesters.
“Hindering access to hospitals and disrupting safety and treatment in hospitals is intolerable and illegal. As is the way all communications have been shut down,” ambassador Therese Loken Gheziel said.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for the restoration of ousted prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is under house arrest, and the release of other detained civilians.
“If the constitutional order is not immediately restored there will be serious consequences for our support, including financial,” he said in a statement. – Reuters