Uneasy quiet in Khartoum on second day of civil disobedience

Much of the Sudanese capital remains close as the military and protesters remain at loggerheads

Sudanese residents walk by barricades in Khartoum on June 9, 2019. Sudanese police fired tear gas on June 9 at protesters taking part in the first day of a civil disobedience campaign, called in the wake of a deadly crackdown on demonstrators. Protesters gathered tyres, tree trunks and rocks to build new roadblocks in Khartoum's northern Bahari district, a witness told AFP, but riot police swiftly moved in and fired tear gas at them. / AFP / Ahmed Mustafa
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For the second consecutive day, many of Khartoum's stores were shuttered on Monday and the streets of Sudanese capital saw little traffic as millions observed a call for civil disobedience by protest leaders seeking to topple the country's military rulers.

However, a few shops, petrol stations and several branches of a private bank had opened Monday, bringing a little life back to the uneasy capital. Public transport also ran in most of Khartoum.

The protesters called for an indefinite civil campaign in response to last Monday's deadly raid by security forces on a sit-in protest outside the headquarters of the armed forces in the capital.

The move heralded a militarised response to the opposition that, according to protest leaders, has claimed about 120 lives so far, including four shot dead by security forces on Sunday. The military-backed Health Ministry has put the death toll at around 60.

The response also involved the arrest of protest heads alongside rebel leaders who, emboldened by the April 11 removal of authoritarian leader Omar Al Bashir, had come to the capital.

Authorities on Monday released three rebel leaders arrested last week in Khartoum, according to the state-run SUNA news agency. The three are Yasser Arman, a veteran opposition politician from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North), Ismail Jalab and Mubarak Ardol.

The three were immediately deported to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, according to a statement by the SPLM-North.

On Monday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, a powerful protest group, posted photos and videos purporting to show row after row of closed stores in Khartoum as well as very thin traffic on the city's usually congested downtown area.

The images also showed street barricades and barriers designed to disrupt traffic and thwart attempts by security forces to venture into residential neighbourhoods.

The association said late on Sunday that response to the call for civil disobedience exceeded all expectations. The opposition umbrella of political parties and trade unions – the Forces of Freedom and Change – say the civil disobedience would only end when the generals surrender power to a civilian-led administration.

The indefinite civil disobedience is the latest chapter in the trial of wills between the protest leaders and the generals who removed Mr Al Bashir after four months of street protests against his 29-year rule.

The two sides began talks about the formation of a transitional administration soon after Mr Al Bashir's removal, but the on-and-off negotiations foundered over the question of which of the two sides should lead and form the majority of a council proposed to operate as a collective presidency during a transitional period.

The military had repeatedly pledged not to break up the sit-in protest, which started on April 6, initially to pressure the military to remove Mr Al Bashir but later to force the generals to step down.

The military says the intention was to remove "criminal elements" from the sit-in but the operation got out of control.

The council says it has ordered an investigation into the incident but are yet to announce any arrests linked to the violence.

The military, meanwhile, has hardened its rhetoric, with a member of the council saying late on Sunday that the rebel leaders have committed a crime by closing roads and setting up barricades.

The actions of the protest leaders, said council member Lt Gen Jamaleddine Omar, have "crossed the line of peaceful practices and have become a major liability for the country and the people's security."