Sudanese forces are deployed around Khartoum’s army headquarters on June 3, 2019 as they try to disperse Khartoum’s sit-in. At least two people were killed Monday as Sudan’s military council tried to break up a sit-in outside Khartoum’s army headquarters, a doctors’ committee said as gunfire was heard from the protest site. AFP photo
Sudan’s military on Tuesday cancelled a power-transfer agreement with protesters and called for elections within nine months, a day after more than 35 demonstrators were killed in what they called a “bloody massacre”.
Protest leaders called on their supporters to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the ruling military council following the deadly dispersal of the weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum.
The Transitional Military Council ousted president Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his authoritarian rule and had agreed a three-year transition period to a civilian administration.
But army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced in a televised statement the plan had been ditched and an election would take place under “regional and international supervision”.
“The military council decides on the following: cancelling what was agreed on and stopping negotiating with the Alliance for Freedom and Change, and to call for general elections within a period not exceeding nine months,” Burhan said.
Dozens of demonstrators were killed and hundreds more wounded in Monday’s crackdown, which was met with sharp international condemnation.
Eid prayers for ‘martyrs’
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December, said Monday’s action against the sit-in amounted to a “bloody massacre”.
It urged people to go out on Tuesday to hold Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, “pray for the martyrs” and then “demonstrate peacefully”.
The official date for the start of of Eid al-Fitr in Sudan has been fixed for Wednesday, the state SUNA news agency said.
Tensions remained high across Khartoum, with heavily armed members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, thought to have been largely behind Monday’s crackdown, deployed in large numbers.
The paramilitaries, in their trademark pickups mounted with heavy machine guns, guarded entrances to the bridges that cross the Nile, and moved in convoys around the city.
Streets around the city centre were almost deserted Tuesday, with many markets and shops closed and almost no cars on the roads on an overcast morning.
Many residents of the capital complained that they were still unable to connect to the internet, after problems with the network started the previous day.
Flights into Khartoum were disrupted as airlines monitored developments on the ground.
“Our flights to Khartoum still cancelled as Khartoum airport is shut because of political instability and security concerns,” said a spokesman for Bahrain flag carrier Gulf Air.
Egyptair cancelled flights to Khartoum on Monday night and Tuesday morning.
The United States called it a “brutal” crackdown on protesters, who want the generals behind the overthrow of veteran president Omar al-Bashir to hand over to civilian rule.
UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned the excessive use of force and called for an independent investigation.
The UN Security Council will meet behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss Sudan, after Britain and Germany requested the talks, diplomats said.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is close to the protesters, said the death toll had risen to more than 35, with “hundreds” wounded”.
An eight-year-old child was among those killed, it said, and called for “urgent support” from humanitarian organisations to help the wounded.
Footage from the Royal Care hospital near the site of the sit-in showed people on the floors of the wards receiving treatment as men in uniforms sat in pickup trucks outside.
Protest leaders said the large square outside army HQ where protesters had camped out day and night since April 6 had been cleared.
“The Rapid Support Forces and the army and police and militia battalions dispersed the peaceful sit-in,” said the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
Outside the army headquarters “there is no one, but the pure bodies of our martyrs that it has not been possible to evacuate from the site”.
The doctors’ committee said forces had opened fire inside the city’s East Nile Hospital and had chased “peaceful protesters”.
Rallies against Bashir’s authoritarian, three-decade rule led to his ouster in April, but protesters had remained outside the army headquarters calling on the generals to cede power to a transitional authority.
Arab support for army
African and Western governments have been strongly supportive of the protesters but Arab governments, led by Saudi Arabia have backed military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
The US embassy in Khartoum said “security forces’ attacks against protesters and other civilians is wrong and must stop”.
“Responsibility falls on the TMC. The TMC cannot responsibly lead the people of Sudan,” it added, referring to the transitional military council.
Tibor Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for Africa, tweeted that it was a “brutal and coordinated attack, led by the Rapid Support Forces militia, that mirrors some of the worst offences of the Bashir regime”.
Moussa Faki, the head of the African Union Commission, urged “an immediate and transparent investigation in order to hold all those responsible accountable”.
But Arab governments called for renewed talk between protesters and the military.Ahead of the crackdown as talks faltered, Burhan had visited Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are crucial donors to Sudan, depositing an initial $500 million at the central bank since Bashir’s fall as part of a planned $3 billion overall package to maintain their influence in the country.