Over the weekend, the people of Sudan showed the world they’re still fighting for the future of their country, defying the generals who currently command the government and who have violently cracked down on protesters’ calls for civilian rule.
In Khartoum on Sunday, protesters gathered in the largest mass demonstration since the deadly confrontation with government militias earlier in June, which killed at least 100 people. As the BBC reports, pro-democracy protests broke out throughout the country—a “massive show of strength” despite a month-long internet blackout and military troops obstructing many from joining the marches. Some estimate that hundreds of thousands of people took part in the nationwide demonstrations.
They were met with violence.
At least seven people have been confirmed dead, with another 181 people wounded, CNN reports, citing the Health Ministry. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, an independent organization, blamed the injuries on gunfire from the Transitional Military Council’s militias. The TMC is the group of generals that have ruled the country since former dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted earlier this year after 30 years in power.
The driving force of the violence is the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, who’s more commonly known as Hemeti. A paramilitary faction of the Sudanese military, it’s the RSF that raided protesters’ campsite in Khartoum on June 3, killing and raping dozens of Sudanese people and throwing their bodies into the Nile.
Following Sunday’s demonstrations, General Hamdan claimed that civilian snipers hiding among the demonstrators had shot at his troops, killing three soldiers, the New York Times reports. The paper also points out that Hamdan made a similar claim about last month’s massacre.
Still, the latest demonstrations show pro-democracy activists are unbowed in the face of brutal military opposition. Protest organizers used text messages, word of mouth, and even sent messengers on the streets with megaphones to help spread news of Sunday’s protest in the suburbs of Khartoum, the Times writes. As protesters in the capital city approached military headquarters and the presidential palace, government forces shot tear gas into the crowd.
In one NPR report, you can hear a protester shouting the Arabic phrase for “civilian rule” as gunfire pops in the background.
According to CNN, protest leaders in the Sudanese Professional Associations (SPA), which led the protests against al-Bashir, were prepared for potential violence, warning the international community not to let the TMC “get away with another massacre.”
“The same Janjaweed militias and other security forces that resorted to the use of excessive force at the massive peaceful sit-in at the Army Headquarters in Khartoum on 3 June 2019 might use the same violent tactics against our people today,” they said in a statement.
The SPA has called for an unconditional transfer of power over to civilians and wants to begin the process of electing a new democratic government immediately.