KARO — Thousands took to the streets in Sudan’s capital on Friday, a day after nine people were killed in demonstrations against the country’s ruling generals.
The United States and others in the international community condemned the violence in this East African country, which has been rocked by almost weekly protests since an October 25 coup d’état rocked the fragile transition to democracy.
Thursday’s rallies were the largest in months. Sudanese military authorities have responded with a deadly crackdown that has left 113 people dead, including 18 children.
In and near Khartoum, large mourning marches took place for some of the dead who had died the day before, while others gathered in mosques in the country’s capital after Friday prayers. Photos of the dead were posted online, in some cases in an effort to identify them.
The Sudan’s Doctors Committee, a medical group that monitors protest victims, said security forces shot and killed nine people, including a child, in or near Khartoum during the demonstrations on Thursday. The demonstrations coincided with widespread internet outages. Internet observers and activists say the government has paralyzed communications to prevent rallies and slow the spread of news on days when a large protest is expected.
Sudan’s leading pro-democracy groups – Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change and the Resistance Committees – had called for nationwide protests against the coup. The takeover rocked the country’s short-lived transition to democracy following the ouster of longtime autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019.
Since the coup, the UN political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the eight-nation East African Regional Intergovernmental Authority in Development Group have been trying to find a way out of the political deadlock. But talks have so far yielded nothing.
In a joint statement tweeted Friday, the three agencies expressed their “disappointment at the continued use of excessive force by security forces and the lack of accountability for such actions, despite repeated assurances from the authorities.”
Thursday’s protests also fell on the third anniversary of a 2019 mass rally that forced the generals to sit down at the negotiating table with pro-democracy groups and eventually sign a power-sharing agreement expected to rule Sudan during a transitional period, until general elections were to be held. The coup of last October scuttled this scheme.
Western governments have repeatedly called on the generals to allow peaceful protests, but have also angered the protest movement for sometimes interacting with the leading generals. Pro-democracy leaders are calling on the generals to leave power immediately.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life in yesterday’s protests,” the US embassy in Sudan said in a statement on Friday. “We urge all parties to resume negotiations and call on peaceful voices to rise above those advocating or committing violence.”
Police said on Friday an investigation was launched after a video was circulated online showing security forces poking and kicking a badly injured protester in the street the day before. According to pro-democracy groups, the protester died later. In a statement released on the website of the country’s state news agency, police said the video shows security personnel violating orders not to approach demonstrations with firearms. It said those involved would be held accountable.
The country’s interior ministry, which oversees the police, has consistently denied the use of sharps on protesters, despite evidence from activists and pro-democracy groups to the contrary.