Protester Killed in Anti-coup Demonstrations as Thousands Take to the Streets in Sudan

One killed as protesters are met with sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas during an attempted march to Sudan's presidential palace

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Flag bearing protesters marching in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday.
Flag bearing protesters marching in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday. Credit: Marwan Ali /AP

One protester was killed in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Sunday during anti-coup demonstrations, medics aligned with a movement to end military rule said.

The death brings the total number of protesters that have died since the October 25 coup to 79, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said. Hundreds of others have been wounded in the widely condemned crackdown on political opposition.

Earlier on Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sudan's capital and other cities across the country, carrying on a months-long movement of demonstrations denouncing an October military coup that has threatened the transition towards democracy initiated by the Sudanese Revolution.

Mostly young protesters marched through the streets of Khartoum and other cities, demanding an end to the military’s takeover. They called for a fully civilian government to lead the country’s now-stalled transition to democracy.

The coup has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. The African nation has been on a fragile path to democracy since a popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir in April 2019.

The protests are called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, which were the popular backbone of the uprising against al-Bashir and relentless anti-coup protests in the past three months.

People chant slogans during an anti-coup protest in Khartoum, Sunday. Credit: Marwan Ali /AP

Footage circulated widely online showed people beating drums and chanting anti-coup slogans in the streets of Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman. Protesters were also seen carrying Sudanese flags and banners with photos of dissidents slain by security forces printed on them.

“We go out to demonstrate so that our children can live under a civil, democratic state in the future. We won't allow our children's future to be confiscated,” protester Mohamed Abdelrahman, a 51-year-old government employee, said.

They marched towards the presidential palace, an area in the capital that has seen deadly repression of protesters by security forces in previous rounds of demonstrations.

Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters in at least one location in the capital. At least three people suffered injuries from rubber bullets, said activist Nazim Sirag.

Demonstrators led marches across the country, including the eastern city of Port Sudan, western Darfur region and Madani, the capital city of Jazira province, about 135 kilometers (85 miles) southeast of Khartoum. Residents of Madani staged a massive anti-coup protest last week.

Ahead of the protests, authorities stepped up security in Khartoum and Omdurman. They deployed thousands of troops and police and sealed off central Khartoum, urging protesters to assemble only in public squares in the capital’s neighborhoods.

The United Nations mission in Sudan on Saturday warned that such restrictions could increase tensions, urging authorities to let the protests “pass without violence.”

There were also mass arrests of activists leading the anti-coup protests and allegations of sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, in a December 19 protest in Khartoum, according to the UN.

Protesters chant slogans in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday. Credit: Marwan Ali /AP

The upheaval in Sudan worsened earlier this month following the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was the civilian face of the hybrid civilian-military transitional government over the past two years.

The prime minister, who was ousted in the October coup only to be reinstated a month later under heavy international pressure, stepped down on January 2 after his efforts to reach a compromise failed.

Sunday’s protests came as the UN mission continued its consultations to find a way out of the ongoing crisis.

On Saturday, powerful Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the ruling Sovereign Council, and commander of the feared Rapid Support Forces, said they have accepted UN efforts to resolve the crisis, but that UN envoy Volker Perthes “should be a facilitator not a mediator.”

Dagalo did not elaborate, but his comments illustrated the challenges the UN mission faces in finding a common ground between rival factions in Sudan.

The pro-democracy movement has insisted on the removal of the generals from power and the establishment of a fully civilian government to lead the transition.

The generals, however, said they will hand over power only to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023, as planned in a 2019 constitutional document governing the transitional period.

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