Hundreds of thousands of people across Sudan took to the streets yesterday in support of a peaceful democratic transition and to call for civilian rule. Protesters were injured, some severely, as security forces used teargas and bullets to disperse protests.
The Marches of the Millions protests turned violent in some places as security forces intervened with tear gas and bullets. Some protesters burnt tires.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded the peaceful continuation of the democratic transition* and the promised handover of power to a civilian government. They accuse the military component of the government of jeopardising the democratic transition.
Counter-protesters demanded a continuation of the military rule and the dismantling of the civilian government component as they hold it responsible for the economic problems in the country. They organised a sit-in earlier in the week.
Tensions between the military and civilian components of the government
In recent weeks, Sudan has witnessed renewed tensions over the transition period and the division of power in the country.
“Deep divisions between military and civilian leaders are threatening to derail the transition to democracy”, the BBC wrote.
Following an aborted coup attempt last month, tensions between Sudanese military and civilian leaders resurfaced as the military accused the civilian politicians of squabbling and quarrelling over positions, while civilian members of the government criticised the military leaders for “claiming a monopoly of guardianship over the country and the sole right to lead it through the transitional period”.
In Omdurman, thousands of people in Omdurman set out from their neighbourhoods in seven marches towards the Parliament building along the Nile in Omdurman. They chanted slogans rejecting the rule of the military.
In Khartoum, tens of thousands of people from various neighbourhoods gathered in El Sitteen Street to demand civilian rule.
Members of Resistance Committees in El Jereif, east of the sit-in on El Sitteen Street, called for the cancellation of “the partnership of blood” between the military and civilian components of the government.
Demonstrators in Khartoum North gathered in El Muassasa Street in support of the democratic transition.
The capitals of the five Darfur states also witnessed Marches of the Millions. The participants all demanded civilian rule.
The demands varied in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher, however, as groups of demonstrators supported the Forces for Freedom and Change-the Founding Platform (FCC-FP, which is headed by Darfuri rebel leaders) and called for the replacement of the current government by a government of technocrats. Other groups demanded civilian rule.
In Delling, South Kordofan, Abdelrahim Kounda reported to Radio Dabanga that the Marches of the Millions were “peaceful”. The demonstrators all called for the military handing over of power to a civilian government.
Thousands of people also came out in the South Kordofan capital Kadugli and other towns to protest, also chanting slogans supporting the democratic transition and demanding the handover of power to civilians.
In North Kordofan and West Kordofan, several marches called on the military members of the Sovereignty Council to hand over the presidency of the council to civilians.
Port Sudan, Kassala, and El Gedaref in eastern Sudan also witnessed various marches. Thousands of people from all neighbourhoods of Kassala went towards Freedom Square in the city to demand civil rule.
In Wad Madani, the capital of El Gezira, thousands of civilians went out in buzzing marches towards the state government secretariat. They too chanted slogans in support of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and denounced Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, the current Chairman of the Sovereignty Council. They also demanded civilian rule and the implementation of the goals of the December revolution.
Similar marches were launched in various towns in Sennar, Blue Nile state, White Nile state, River Nile state, and the Northern State.
Ministers at marches
A number of ministers were seen participating in the marches, including Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khaled Omar, Minister of Transport Mirghani Mousa, and Minister of Industry Ibrahim El Sheikh.
Protesters in Khartoum’s El Sitteen Street carried Mohamed El Faki, member of the Sovereignty Council and leading member of the Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC*), and fellow ERC members Wajdi Saleh and Taha Osman on their necks.
Security forces violence
Eyewitnesses told Radio Dabanga that security forces broke up the demonstrations in front of the parliament in Omdurman by firing tear gas, sound bombs, and bullets after clashes occurred between the police and the demonstrators.
They said that the demonstrators threw stones at the government forces and that a situation of hit and ren and withdrawal to the neighbourhoods occurred.
A number of demonstrators, including journalists Ahmed Hamdan and Taher Bashir, were injured by live bullets and tear gas canisters during the dispersal of the demonstration in front of the Parliament building in Omdurman.
Ahmed Hamdan was reportedly shot in the head while he covered the protests as a journalist.
The injured protesters were transferred to the First Aid department of the Omdurman Teaching Hospital.
'The attack on the peaceful demonstrations is a blatant declaration by the current authorities of their hostility to the revolution' – SPA
In a statement on its Facebook page today, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) denounced the violence in Omdurman. “The attack on the peaceful demonstrations is a blatant declaration by the current authorities of their hostility to the revolution, the revolutionaries, and their aspirations,” the Association said.
“So, let us make the Marches of the Millions the final whistle that will lead to the fall of the blood partnership [between the military and civilian components of the government] and its hateful authority. Do not retreat from the streets until the handover of power”, the SPA wrote.
A BBC correspondent reported that the channel's team was beaten and prevented from filming in the sit-in near the Republican Palace yesterday.
A report about the burning of a police vehicle in front of the Parliament building could not be confirmed.
Dozens of protesters were wounded in Khartoum and have been or are still being treated in hospitals there.
In Khartoum North, five young protestors between 18 and 27 years old and an elderly man (70) were wounded. Three are suffering from tear gas exposure, two have light wounds on the head, and one at the hand.
In Omdurman, 12 protestors between 20-35 required medical treatment. Several had wounds in the chest, leg, or hand caused by tear gas canisters whilst others sustained bullet wounds in the belly, hand, or leg. 13 other protestors were treated for breathing problems because of the excessive use of tear gas near the Parliament building.
In anticipation of the Marches of the Millions, authorities and organisations all over Sudan had taken preventive measures.
The Khartoum state authorities had already taken preventive measures by closing all roads leading to the General Command of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in the centre of the city and a number of bridges linking Khartoum to Omdurman and Khartoum North.
North Darfur, South Darfur, and Red Sea state had declared yesterday an official holiday in anticipation of the marches.
Emirates Airlines and Fly Dubai cancelled their flights to Khartoum yesterday and today while shops located within the paths of the marches closed their doors in anticipation of any possible violence.
Sudan PM Hamdok posted a message of support on social media: "I salute the millions of my fellow countrymen and citizens who went out on this great day, the 57th anniversary of the glorious October Revolution, in all the cities and corners of the country and in the countries of the diaspora to affirm their adherence to the democratic civil transformation and the slogan of the December Revolution: 'freedom, peace, justice and civility is the people’s choice'".
The sit-in set up by the FFC-FP continued yesterday for the sixth consecutive day to call for the dissolution of the government and the expansion of its power base.
Large crowds gathered at the main stage in the sit-in and chanted patriotic songs in commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the October 1964 Revolution. The speakers at the sit-in renewed their adherence to the dissolution of the government and the formation of a new government of technocrats, and they pledged the lifting of the sit-in to the implementation of their demands.
First Marches of the Millions
On June 30 last year, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese demonstrated in the first Marches of the Millions to demand civilian rule and justice for the slain demonstrators during the December Revolution, and especially the violent dismantling of the Khartoum sit-in on June 3, 2019.
The Forces for Freedom and Change had called for this demonstration. Ten demonstrators were killed. The bridges between Omdurman and Khartoum were closed by security forces during the first March of the Millions, but demonstrators managed to break through.
In August 2020, Resistance Committees organised another Marches of the Millions ”to correct the course of the revolution”. Thousands took the streets in Khartoum and other cities to protest.
* The now 14-member Transitional Sovereignty Counci (TSC)l forms a collective head of state of Sudan during a 39-month transitional period that is to be followed by general elections.
According to the 2019 Constitutional Document, the council is composed of five civilians chosen by the FFC, five military representatives, and one civilian selected by agreement between the FFC and the military. For the first 21 month, it was agreed that a military member chairs the TSC, in this case Abdelfattah El Burhan is the Chairman. In the remaining 18 months of the transitional period, the council is to be chaired by a civilian member.
Following the signing of the JPA in October last year, three seats were added to the Sovereignty Council, for rebel leaders El Hadi Idris, Malik Agar, and El Taher Hajar.
The transitional period originally began in August 2019, with the signing of the Constitutional Document by the then military junta and the FFC. On demand of the members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance, however, the starting date was changed to October 3, 2020, when the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) was signed by the Sudanese government and the SRF.