Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters on Saturday rallied two months after a military coup, demanding that soldiers “go back to the barracks” and calling for a transition to civilian rule.
Waving flags, beating drums, dancing and chanting, crowds marched on the streets of Khartoum, despite severed communications and a heavy presence of security forces who later fired tear gas to disperse them.
An Agence France-Presse journalist saw injured people being evacuated by demonstrators.
The Doctors’ Committee, part of the pro-democracy movement, reported that security forces fired tear gas into hospitals, attacking doctors, as well as the wounded.
Ahead of the planned protests, officers had barricaded bridges connecting the capital to suburbs, cut telephone lines and restricted access to the Internet.
At least 48 people have died in crackdowns during weeks of demonstrations, the Doctors’ Committee said.
Khartoum’s state governor has said that security forces “will deal with those who break the law and create chaos.”
Demonstrators converged on the presidential palace in Khartoum, the headquarters of the military government in control since General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power on Oct. 25.
Al-Burhan held civilian leader Sudansese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok effectively under house arrest for weeks.
After international pressure including a cut-off of vital aid, al-Burhan reinstated him on Nov. 21 under a deal promising elections in July 2023.
The move alienated many of Hamdok’s pro-democracy supporters, who dismissed it as providing a cloak of legitimacy for al-Burhan’s coup.
“What happened on Oct. 25 was a coup ... and we will not stop demonstrating until we have a civilian government,” a masked woman protesting near the presidential palace said on Saturday.
“We don’t just want the military out, we want to choose our own Sudan that looks like us, that responds to our demands and gives everyone equal rights,” said Othman Mustafa, a 31-year-old demonstrator.
As well as rallies in Khartoum and its suburbs, protesters also marched on the streets of Wad Madani, a city about 150km to the south, witnesses said.
Others reported demonstrations at Atbara in the north and Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast.
Security forces with cranes used shipping containers to block the bridges across the Nile River connecting Khartoum to the sister cities of Omdurman and North Khartoum, and Web monitoring group NetBlocks reported that mobile Internet services were cut at sunrise on Saturday.
Activists reported the arrest of several colleagues from Friday night onward.
UN Special Representative to Sudan Volker Perthes urged the authorities to “protect” the protests, not prevent them.
“Freedom of expression is a human right,” Perthes said on Saturday, adding that it includes “full access” to the Internet.
“No one should be arrested for his or her intention to protest peacefully,” he said.
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