Six killed in Sudan as protesters stage historic sit-in

Six killed in Sudan as protesters stage historic sit-in
Six people were killed on Saturday and Sunday in Sudan as the capital witnessed what may have been the country's largest protest yet since mid-December.
4 min read
07 April, 2019
Sudanese workers are expected to stage a nationwide strike on Sunday [AFP]

Six protesters were killed overnight in Sudan as anti-regime demonstrators staged an historic all-night sit-in outside the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum.

As protests against the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir continue to gain momentum, lead protest organiser the Sudanese Professionals Association has called for a countrywide general strike on Sunday.

Saturday's march on the Sudanese army headquarters came with much anticipation by anti-Bashir protesters.

The march and subsequent sit-in took place on the 34th anniversary of the 6 April Revolution, which saw the ousting of President Gaafar Nimeiri who seized power in a 1969 military coup.

Many Sudanese say the demonstration may have been the biggest yet since protests swept the country in mid-December.

Witnesses estimated the sit-in and accompanying protest marches to have been attended by over 500,000 people.

Protesters called on the army to take a side - the demonstrators' or Bashir's - in the widespread demonstrations.

Although many are sceptical of the army's involvement in securing a future without Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, gestures of solidarity by army personnel were received well by demonstrators on Saturday.

As demonstrators from across the capital made their way to the rallying point outside of the army headquarters, witnesses reported the army made no attempt to impede their path.

As night fell, protesters took to social media to call on others to join the sit-in and bring supplies, such as food, water, phone credit and medical supplies.

Unauthorised protests have been banned in Sudan since late February, when Bashir announced a state of emergency and granted the feared National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) increased powers to detain demonstrators.

Army personnel could be seen joining in with protest chants and shaking hands with demonstrators in videos spread on social media networks.

Two views of the protest, seemingly taken from the Army General Command building, also spread on social media networks, prompting questions as to the military's true loyalty. While many in the lower ranks of the military are reportedly with the protesters, the upper ranks remain solidly pro-regime.

The army reportedly blocked police and security services from entering the area overtaken by protesters, but later changed its tact in the early hours of Sunday morning, calling on demonstrators to leave the sit-in, saying their "presence on the premises exposes [them] to danger".

Security services and police swiftly moved in on the thousands of demonstrators, using live bullets and attempting to disperse the group using tear gas.

Five protesters were killed on Saturday and Sunday in the capital Khartoum and its sister city Omdurman, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said. Tens were injured by live bullets and tear gas at the site of the sit-in, it added.

Medical worker Abdelmoiz Atallah was killed in Omdurman, the CCSD said without mentioning the reason for his death. Amro Jamal, a man in his twenties, was reportedly shot in the head by security forces who opened fire on demonstrators in the early hours of Sunday morning, as was engineer Ahmed Ibrahim Tabidi, 26 years old, from the White Nile province.

Maab Hanafi was reportedly shot and killed by a "regime militia". A witness claimed early on Sunday in a Facebook Live feed that the regime had deployed its janjaweed militias, accused of war crimes and genocide during the Darfur conflict, to attack protesters.

A fifth man, who could not be identified, was also reportedly killed by live bullets.

In addition, a woman, Badria Ishag, was also reported killed by security services in the Khamsa Dagayig Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Central Darfur on Saturday.

Despite attempts to disperse the protesters with force, the mass sit-in continued into Sunday morning.

The Sudanese Professionals Association called for a general strike on Sunday involving both public and private sector workers.

Involvement in the strike is expected to be widespread.

Protests erupted in mid-December when a government decision to cut surpluses led to tripled bread prices, exacerbating the poor financial situation of many in a country which many Sudanese say has been dogged by corruption, economic mismanagement and human rights abuses.

The protests quickly spread across the country and took on a broader political message - calling on Bashir to step down and allow the formation of a democratic transitional government.