Sudan security forces fire tear gas at pro-democracy protesters

Sudan security forces fire tear gas at pro-democracy protesters
Sudanese security forces fired tear gas Thursday as thousands of protesters marched against last year's military coup
4 min read
Thousands marched in Khartoum carrying posters of activists killed by security forces [Getty]

Sudanese security forces fired tear gas Thursday as thousands of protesters marched against last year's military coup, which sparked political and economic crises and exacerbated a wider security breakdown that has left hundreds dead.

Chanting slogans and waving Sudanese flags, protesters demanded justice for 119 people killed during intense crackdowns since the military power grab in October last year.

In addition, a broader security breakdown nationwide has also left nearly 600 dead and more than 210,000 displaced as a result of ethnic violence this year, according to the United Nations.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power on October 25, 2021, arresting the civilian leaders with whom he had agreed to share power in 2019, when mass protests compelled the army to depose one of its own, long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

In the capital Khartoum, thousands in the suburb of Al-Deim marched carrying posters of activists killed by security forces.

In North Khartoum, thousands of pro-democracy activists erected barricades to block the security forces, who fired barrages of tear gas canisters towards them.

"Soldiers go back to the barracks", protesters chanted.

For 12 months, near weekly anti-coup protests have been met with force. Ahead of protests on Thursday, security forces blocked the bridges across the Nile linking Khartoum to its satellite cities, including Omdurman.

On Tuesday, in giant marches to mark the anniversary of the coup, a protester was killed when he was crushed by a military vehicle in Omdurman, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said, a pro-democracy group of medics.

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Already one of the world's poorest countries, Sudan has plunged into a worsening economic crisis since the coup.

Western governments say Sudan must return to civilian rule before crucial aid halted in response to the coup can resume.

Between three-digit inflation and chronic food shortages, a third of the country's 45 million inhabitants suffer from hunger, a 50 percent increase compared with 2021, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

On Thursday, in separate demonstrations, some 150 Sudanese protesters rallied in front of the UN headquarters in Khartoum, to denounce clashes that have left at least 200 people dead this month in Blue Nile state.

Violence erupted earlier this month in the southern state over reported land disputes between members of the Hausa people and rival groups.

"We protest to tell the international community to put an end to violence in Blue Nile because the Sudanese authorities are doing nothing," said Mawaheb Ibrahim, one of those in the crowd.

Conflict in Sudan has continued despite a 2020 peace deal with key rebel forces.

Much of the violence between neighbouring ethnic group is rooted in grievances over land, water or livestock grazing, in regions still reeling after decades of civil war and left awash with automatic rifles.

Access to land is highly sensitive in the impoverished country, where agriculture and livestock account for 43 percent of employment and 30 percent of GDP, according to UN and World Bank statistics.

Sudan is the world's fifth most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, according to a 2020 ranking in the Global Adaptation Index, compiled by the Notre Dame University in the United States.

Health officials in Blue Nile, which borders South Sudan and Ethiopia, said 237 had been killed in intense fighting last week in the Wad al-Mahi area, about 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Khartoum.

The toll is expected to rise further, state health minister Jamal Nasser said, warning that "there are still bodies in the rubble of homes".

Some 40,000 people, "mainly women, children and the elderly" have sought refuge in schools in the nearby cities of Roseires and Damazin, he added.

Mohammed Nureddine, a Hausa leader, said many residents were "besieged" and cut off from help, adding that they included "some of whom are injured, but no one can access them."