Two killed in Sudan as tens of thousands protest against military rule

Live rounds and tear gas fired to disperse demonstrators in Khartoum

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A man and a teenager died after security forces fired live rounds, tear gas and stun grenades at tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Sudan’s capital on Sunday to demand an end to military rule, a medical group has said.

The man, Ali HobEldeen, 26, died on Sunday after a tear gas canister hit his neck. A 17-year-old boy, Alaaeldeen Adel, died in hospital on the same day after sustaining a gunshot wound to the neck during protests on Thursday.

In anticipation of the protests, soldiers fanned out across Khartoum before dawn on Sunday, sealing off several Nile bridges that connect the centre of the city with outlying districts and closing roads leading to the military headquarters.

Witnesses said troops were also stationed near the city’s international airport, conducting searches of cars and passengers.

By late afternoon, security forces had fired live rounds, tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Bahri and Umm Dorman across the Blue Nile, the witnesses said.

The use of force was heaviest on streets leading to the Nile-side Republican Palace in central Khartoum, they said.

Videos shared online showed the protesters singing, beating drums, clapping and waving Sudan’s national flag as the sound of gunfire rang out and heavy black smoke from burning tyres hung in the air above. Ambulance sirens wailed in the background and medics treated the wounded on pavements.

Women ululated and volunteers ferried the wounded out of harm’s way on scooters.

At least 62 protesters have been killed and thousands injured in protests since the military seized power on October 25, leading western powers to decry the use of excessive force by security forces.

On Saturday, the UN announced it was sponsoring talks between Sudan’s political stakeholders to find a way out of the political crisis that followed the coup.

Led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, the military takeover upended the country’s democratic transition nearly three years after a popular uprising forced the army to remove dictator Omar Al Bashir from power in April 2019.

“It is time to end the violence and enter into a constructive process,” said Volker Perthes, the UN special envoy on Sudan.

“The [democratic] transition has faced major setbacks that have deeply affected the country since the military coup,” he said. “The subsequent and repeated violence against largely peaceful demonstrators has only served to deepen the mistrust among all political parties in Sudan.”

A protester carries Sudan's national flag during demonstrations against the October 2021 military coup, in the capital Khartoum, on January 9.  Photo: AFP

A major pro-democracy group, the Sudanese Professionals Association, rejected the UN initiative in a statement on Sunday. It said it was standing by the motto of the anti-coup protests: “No to negotiations! No to partnership! No to legitimacy!”

“We declare our total rejection of the invitation [to talks], which pushes toward normalisation with the criminals of the coup’s military council and their fascist rule,” the association said.

“Our steadfast people have clearly declared that the way out of the Sudanese crisis begins with bringing down the coup’s military council and bringing its members to account before special courts to answer for the massacres they perpetrated against the peaceful people of Sudan.”

Another major pro-democracy group, the Forces for Freedom and Change, said it has yet to receive details of the UN initiative. It emphasised that “peaceful mass action to defeat the October 25 coup and establish full civilian authority” would continue.

The FFC, an alliance of political parties and trade and professional unions, was the political patron and power base of the civilian-led government that took office after Al Bashir’s removal.

But on October 25, prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and his government were dismissed by Gen Al Burhan.

Mr Hamdok was reinstated on November 21 but stepped down on January 2, citing widening differences between the military and civilian politicians. He said in his televised resignation address that Sudan was heading for disaster unless something is done quickly to end its political crisis.

His reinstatement was criticised as lending legitimacy to the coup and his departure created a political void, leaving the military in sole control.

The SPA, FFC and the powerful Resistance Committees, also a pro-democracy group, have repeatedly said they will accept nothing less than the military’s complete withdrawal from politics and the installation of a civilian government.

Former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok's reinstatement was criticised as giving legitimacy to the military takeover. Photo: AFP

Gen Al Burhan has said the military is the ultimate guardian of the country’s democratic transition and promised elections in July 2023.

The deadly violence against protesters, which activists claim could not have happened without Gen Al Burhan’s approval, has deepened distrust between the pro-democracy movement and the military.

Mr Perthes announced the talks after a telephone conversation between Gen Al Burhan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday.

The news was welcomed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, US and UK.

“We urge all Sudanese political actors to seize this opportunity to restore the country’s transition to civilian democracy,” they said in a joint statement.

“We strongly support this UN-facilitated, Sudanese-led dialogue initiative. We urge all Sudanese political actors to seize this opportunity to restore the country’s transition to civilian democracy, in line with the 2019 Constitutional Declaration.

“We look forward to this being a result-oriented process that will guide the country towards democratic elections, in line with the Sudanese people’s manifest aspirations for freedom, democracy, peace, justice and prosperity.”

The Arab League also welcomed the proposed talks, and the UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Sudan.

Updated: January 10, 2022, 3:49 AM