Sudan: Security Forces Kill over a Dozen at Anti-Coup ‘March of Millions’

Sudanese anti-coup protesters attend a gathering in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on October 30, 2021, to express their support for the country's democratic transition which a military takeover and deadly crackdown derailed. (AFP via Getty Images)
AFP via Getty Images

Opponents of the coup in Sudan held a “March of Millions” rally on Saturday that turned deadly when security forces opened fire, killing at least a dozen people and injuring hundreds more.

Gunfire was reported in Khartoum, Omdurman, and East Nile. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors counted 12 deaths since the civilian government was overthrown last Monday, while eyewitnesses told Radio Dabanga the total number of fatalities is probably much higher.

Local hospitals reported treating dozens of people struck by live ammunition. Eyewitnesses said one of the killings was perpetrated inside a hospital.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three people were shot dead in Omdurman during Saturday’s “March of Millions” rally, and 38 were injured, including several gunshot wounds. Witnesses said gunshots were heard near the parliament building, and tear gas was also deployed against demonstrators there. The lower house of the Sudanese legislature, the National Assembly, is headquartered in Omdurman, “sister city” to the national capital of Khartoum.

Security forces blocked bridges into Khartoum and fired shots to disperse crowds that tried to enter the city. Photos posted to social media showed a barbed-wire barricade hastily erected across one of Khartoum’s major highways. Security forces also destroyed tire and rock barricades erected by protesters.

Pro-democracy protesters use fires to block streets to condemn a takeover by military officials in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashraf Idris)

Pro-democracy protesters use fires to block streets to condemn a takeover by military officials in Khartoum, Sudan, October 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ashraf Idris)

The military junta tried to prevent protest rallies from getting organized by shutting down the Internet, but text messages – printed leaflets, graffiti, and word-of-mouth – were used to bypass the social media blockade.

“Sudanese police denied shooting protesters during the demonstrations, saying on state TV that one policeman sustained gunshot wounds. A representative of the military was not immediately available to comment,” Reuters reported on Sunday.

Observers blamed much of the violence on members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a notorious militia group with a history of using violence against civilian demonstrators. The RSF was organized by Sudan’s intelligence service in 2013 and was originally deployed to suppress demonstrations against dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in 2019.

Thousands of protesters were back on the streets Sunday despite the junta’s violent response on Saturday, manning barricades and waving banners that said, “No to Military Rule.” Organizers from the “resistance committee” advised demonstrators to barricade their neighborhoods and continue their “civil disobedience” close to home.

The Associated Press

People chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, on October 30, 2021. Pro-democracy groups called for mass protest marches across the country Saturday to press demands for reinstating a deposed transitional government and releasing senior political figures from detention. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)

Civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, kidnapped by the junta when it seized power last week, remains under house arrest and reportedly said on Sunday that he hopes to be reinstated and in any event will not resign “willingly.” 

“What is obstructing talks currently is that the military leadership is unified in their current course of action and in their belief that this is not a coup but a ‘correction of the revolution’ i.e. part of the political process,” a source close to Hamdok told CNN on Sunday.

Protesters in eastern Sudan, largely members of a tribe called the Beja, announced on Sunday they have reached an agreement with the junta and will lift a blockade on the country’s main Red Sea port for one month. The blockade was launched in September, weeks before the military coup, because the Beja felt the hybrid military-civilian “transitional government” was not addressing their concerns about autonomy and revenue from the port. The blockade severely disrupted shipments of food and fuel, causing shortages across Sudan.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday saluted the courage of demonstrators, called for the junta to “take heed” of the protests, relinquish power, and return to the civilian-military transitional government structure.

The U.N. has not taken significant action in response to the ongoing crisis at press time.

A source within the Sudanese military told the Associated Press on Sunday that coup leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan may propose allowing Hamdok to return to office as the head of a cabinet fully subordinate to military leadership, rather than a nominal equal partner in government. The source suggested that if Hamdok is unwilling to play that diminished role, the junta might replace him with someone more agreeable.

According to this source, Burhan does not consider himself a “coup leader” – instead, he believes the military was acting defensively to prevent corrupt civilian politicians from seizing too much power. Buran is reportedly willing to release most of the civilian leaders he placed under arrest last week – except for a few he regards as loyalists to the ousted Bashir regime and holds responsible for trying to stage a real “coup” against the military in September.

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