Sudan: Thousands of pro-military protesters rally in Khartoum

Demonstration organised by splinter faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change

Thousands of pro-military protesters have vowed not to leave central Khartoum until Sudan’s government is dissolved.

Sudanese politics remains divided after two decades of dictatorship under Omar Al Bashir, who was ousted by the army in April 2019 following weeks of mass protests.

The protest on Saturday was organised by a splinter faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, a civilian alliance that led the anti-Al Bashir protests and became a key plank of the transition.

“We need a military government, the current government has failed to bring us justice and equality,” said Abboud Ahmed, 50, a protester.

On Saturday evening, demonstrators set up tents outside the presidential palace demanding the dismissal of the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former UN economist whose IMF-backed reforms have hit the pockets of many Sudanese.

The government's supporters said the protest was orchestrated by sympathisers of the Al Bashir regime, which was dominated by Islamists and the military.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a brief statement on the situation on Sunday, in support of the transitional government.

“We welcome PM Hamdok’s leadership in laying out a road map of principles to sustain the democratic transition in Sudan and urge all stakeholders to take immediate, concrete steps to meet the key benchmarks of the Constitutional Declaration,” Mr Blinken wrote in a tweet.

Protesters chanted “one army, one people” and “the army will bring us bread".

“We are marching in a peaceful protest and we want a military government,” said home maker Enaam Mohamed.

Abdelnaby Abdelelah, a protester from the eastern state of Kassala, said the government had overlooked other states beyond Khartoum.

“We want a government that knows about the things going on in the east,” he said.

Outside the presidential palace, the protesters chanted: “We will stay put where we are … we want the dissolution of this government".

The latest demonstration in Khartoum has heightened tensions before a rival rally planned for Thursday to demand a full transfer of power to civilians.

Mr Hamdok gave a warning on Friday that the transition was facing its “worst and most dangerous” crisis.

Addressing the nation in televised comments, Mr Hamdok also offered the military an olive branch, saying his government respected it and appreciated its role in protecting the nation and the people.

“We don’t hold the military responsible for coup attempts or the fantasies of adventurers,” he said.

However, he added: “Our message to all parties of the transitional period is that nations are never built by personal frictions or casual reflexes.”

The continuing quarrel between Sudan’s military on one hand and the government and its pro-democracy backers on the other highlighted the fragility of the transition to democratic rule, when they engaged in a public and bitter war of words after a failed military coup last month, with each side blaming the other for the country’s many woes.

Support for the transitional government has waned in recent months in the face of its tough economic reforms, which have included the slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.

Inflation has rocketed, reaching 422 per cent in July, before easing slightly in August and September.

Protests have rocked eastern Sudan, where demonstrators have blocked trade through Port Sudan since September. On September 21, the government said it had thwarted a coup attempt which it blamed on military officers and civilians linked to Al Bashir's regime.

The US removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and investment.

Updated: October 17th 2021, 2:58 PM