Sudan's military junta 'preemptively blames' protesters for violence, vandalism in upcoming march

Sudan's military junta 'preemptively blames' protesters for violence, vandalism in upcoming march
The military junta warned that protest leaders would hold the 'full responsibility' for any 'victims'.
3 min read
29 June, 2019
Sudan's deputy leader also warned of 'vandals' with an 'agenda' [AFP]

Sudan's ruling military junta on Saturday warned that the country's protest leaders would be held responsible for "any victims" at a planned mass protest the next day.

The statement has prompted severe concern among Sudanese activists who fear that the military plans to violently disperse the "million-man" march and is taking preemptive action by pinning the blame on the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), an opposition umbrella group representing protesters.

Sunday's march comes on the thirtieth anniversary of ousted President Omar al-Bashir's rise to power in a military coup.

Bashir was toppled by the military on 11 April after months of widespread popular protests.

But since ousting Bashir and promising a peaceful transition to civilian rule, the military junta has proved reluctant to relinquish power.

Negotiations between protest leaders and the military came to a crashing halt on 3 June when the country's armed forces brutally dispersed a months-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum, killing more than a hundred people.

"The AFC is fully responsible for any victims or damage inflicted on institutions tomorrow," the military warned on Saturday according to Akhbar.

For many Sudanese, the statement signals a bloody crackdown on Sunday's march.

Deputy leader Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, more widely known by his nickname Himedti, repeated those warnings earlier on Saturday.

Himedti is deputy leader of the country's military council and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an officialised paramilitary offshoot of the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread war crimes in the Darfur conflict.

Eyewitnesses say RSF troops were the main perpetrators of the crackdown that began on 3 June. They allegedly shot, beat and raped protesters and doctors. They are also alleged to have participated in looting and vandalism.

"There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don't want problems," Himedti told a rally in comments broadcast by state television.

The deputy leader justified the heavy presence of his security forces in the capital since the beginning of the month.

"The military forces who are deployed in Khartoum are there for the security of the people, not to disturb them," he said.

Sunday's mass protest will be the first attempt to mobilise thousands of demonstrators since the brutal 3 June crackdown.

With the country submerged in an internet blackout since then, protesters have attempted to increase their numbers through word of mouth.

The military's response to Sunday's "million-man" march will be a key test for the international community, particularly Ethiopia and the African Union, observing the junta's commitment to a peaceful transition.

The AU and Ethiopia have authored a joint proposal for a transition to civilian rule.

The generals said Friday the proposal could be a base to resume talks with protesters, but expressed "some observations", according to a spokesman.

Himedti on Saturday insisted that the generals had no intention of holding on to power.

"The military council is just a guarantor," he said.

"We are saying we want a civilian government, a government of competences, of independents. This is not political talk… This is true."

About 130 people have been killed since the June 3 crackdown, according to the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD). 

Officials say 61 people died nationwide on June 3.