Thousands of Sudanese marched in the capital of Khartoum and other cities on Wednesday in new protests against an October military coup that plunged the African country into political turmoil and aggravated its economic woes.
It was the latest in efforts to pressure the ruling generals, whose takeover has triggered near-daily street protests demanding civilian rule. Called by pro-democracy groups, the demonstrators marched in Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman amid tight security around the presidential palace, which has seen violent clashes in previous protests.
There were also rallies elsewhere, including in Qadarif and Port Sudan in the east and war-ravaged Darfur region in the west. Footage on social media, which corresponded with The Associated Press reporting, shows young people setting tires on fire and blocking roads.
The army’s takeover upended Sudan’s transition to democracy after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. It also sent the country’s fragile economy into free fall, with living conditions rapidly deteriorating. A popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.
Since the coup, a crackdown on protesters has killed more than 90 people, mostly young men, and injured thousands, according to a Sudanese medical group.
Western governments and world financial institutions suspended their assistance to Sudan in order to pressure the generals to return to civilian-led government.
The U.N. envoy for Sudan warned last month that the country was heading for “an economic and security collapse” unless it addresses the political paralysis following the coup.
Wednesday’s marches were called for by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association and the so-called Resistance Committees, which were the backbone of the uprising against al-Bashir and have also spearheaded the ongoing anti-coup protests. They demand an immediate handover to a fully civilian government, the removal of the generals behind the coup and holding them accountable in “swift and fair trials.”
“Those generals should be prosecuted before revolutionary courts, and the military should return back to its barracks,” said Taha Awad, a protest leader with the Resistance Committees in Khartoum.
The generals insist that they will hand over power only to an elected government; elections are scheduled for next year.
A rebel alliance, the Sudan Revolutionary Front, allied with the military, offered a roadmap forward in a meeting Tuesday with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council and the coup leader. The roadmap calls for the generals to release detained protest leaders, end violence against protesters and lift the state of emergency as trust-building measures before engaging in a dialogue about a technocrat Cabinet.
Ossama Said, a spokesman for the rebel alliance, said that Burhan welcomed the initiative but did not elaborate.
The U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday urged Sudan’s military rulers to allow peaceful protests to “continue without fear of violence.”
President Joe Biden’s administration last month imposed sanctions on Sudan’s Central Reserve Police, which it described as a militarized unit of the country’s police forces, for using violence against pro-democracy protests.
The latest protests come on the third anniversary of the beginning of a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum that accelerated the removal of al-Bashir.
They also come on the 37th anniversary of the overthrow of President Jaafar al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup in 1985 after a popular uprising. At the time, the military quickly handed power to an elected government.
However, the dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until al-Bashir — a career army officer — forged an alliance with Islamist hard-liners and toppled it in a 1989 coup.