Soldier dies protecting protesters as Sudan mass sit-in enters a third night

Soldier dies protecting protesters as Sudan mass sit-in enters a third night
A soldier, shot while try to protect protesters at a mass sit-in now into its third night, and a civilian protester were killed on Monday by the Sudanese security services.
5 min read
08 April, 2019
The protesters' sit-in has lasted three full days [AFP]

A Sudanese soldier and a civilian were killed by the military on Monday as a mass sit-in in the capital Khartoum entered a third night.

Sudanese opposition activists also called on the military to initiate a dialogue between protesters and the regime in order to secure a transitional government.

Soldier Sami Sheikh al-Deen was shot by the security forces while trying to defend protesters in the ongoing sit-in outside the Army General Command in the capital Khartoum, the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said.

This marks the first reported death of a member of Sudan's armed forces since protests swept the country in mid-December.

Ibrahim Othman, a 55-year-old protester, was also shot dead by "regime militias" in the early hours of Monday morning in the south Khartoum neighbourhood Yathrib.

A protest march from various neighbourhoods of the capital towards the General Command on Saturday - planned to coincide with the anniversary of Sudan's 6 April Revolution, when mass protests led to the ousting of President Gaafar Nimeiri - who seized power in a 1969 military coup - soon turned into the largest in the country's most recent uprising.

Thousands of Sudanese converged on the army headquarters to call on the military to stand with them against the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup.

Despite repeated attempts by the security forces to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and rubber and live bullets, the sit-in has continued unabated for three straight days.

Many of the reported hundreds of thousands of protesters have not left the the sit-in site, where they have slept, ate and prayed for 72 hours.

Protesters have taken to social media to collect and share supplies ranging from water and food to inhalers and paracetamol.  

Witnesses say that, despite violence from the feared security services, the numbers of demonstrators streaming to the site have increased by the day.

Despite worries over the military's historic role in Sudanese governance, the sit-in outside the General Command has been a site of rare solidarity between army personnel and protesters.

While eyewitness reports from the first day of the sit-in said soldiers were waving at protesters, shaking their hands and allowing them to ride in military vehicles, reports emerged on the second day that army personnel had directly intervened to protect peaceful protesters from the security services.

Videos distributed on social media on Sunday claimed to show police officers being taken into a hospital after they had been shot at and wounded by the army.

Widespread reports testify to the army blocking roads, shielding protesters and shooting at security services and police who were attempting to fire on protesters.

Sudanese journalists and activists have said that any soldiers assisting protesters are likely low-ranking army personnel who are disobeying the orders of higher-ranking officers, which historically held up the regime.

Despite those efforts, a "large number" of people were hospitalised for bullet wounds, the CCSD said in a statement on Monday morning in which it called on available medics to treat the wounded.

"The Sudanese revolution reached a decisive stage during the 6 April march, in which the Sudanese people rallied in an unprecedented fashion," Omar al-Digeir declared on behalf of the Declaration for Freedom and Change, an initiative led by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), during a speech at the sit-in on Monday.

The SPA has been the main organiser of protests across the country over the past three and a half months.

"The masses decided to sit in front of the Army General Command until the fall of the regime and to demonstrate an brilliant epic saga and valiant steadfastness against a brutal authority seeking to remain on the throne on top of the skulls of the people."

After thanking the "honourable officers and soldiers" who "protected the revolutionaries and their right to peaceful expression", Digeir repeated their demand that Bashir step down and allow the formation of a transitional government by the signatories and supporters of the revolution.

He then called on the army to "support the Sudanese people's choice to change and transition to a democratic civil government" rather than staying with the regime "which has lost all its legitimacy".

The opposition activist pleaded to stop the Sudanese regime from "dragging the country into violence" and facilitate "direct communication" between the signatories of the declaration and the armed forces to bring about a transitional government, the opposition activist pleaded.

The CCSD issued a statement on Monday calling for more people to join the sit-in in front of the General Command and for Sudanese in other regions to form their own sit-ins.

The doctors union also announced yesterday evening the death of Ahmad Safi al-Deen, who it says was run over by a security services vehicle in al-Obeid, southwestern Sudan.

Social media users have reported protesters on Monday began staging a sit-in in front of the military headquarters in al-Obeid.

This raises the total killed since the sit-in began on Saturday to nine people, five of whom were killed outside the General Command. Others were killed in Omdurman and Central Darfur.

The estimated total of demonstrators killed since mid-December, as reported by activists on the ground in Sudan, now stands at 69.