Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas as thousands of protesters rallied against a deal that saw the civilian prime minister reinstated following a military coup last month, witnesses said.
The protests on Thursday came just days after army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan signed a new power-sharing deal with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, after releasing him from house arrest.
The move was the biggest concession made by the military since its October 25 coup but leaves the country’s transition to democracy mired in crisis. Prior to the takeover, Sudan’s transitional government was composed of the Sovereign Council, a joint military-civilian body headed by al-Burhan, and a civilian cabinet led by Hamdok.
Sudan’s pro-democracy movement dismissed the agreement as falling short of their demands for full civilian rule and accused Hamdok of allowing himself to serve as a fig leaf for continued military rule. The military was due to hand over the sovereign council’s leadership to a civilian in the coming months.
Thousands of protesters take to the streets to renew their demand for a civilian government in the Sudanese capital Khartoum [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who remained deputy head of a new, al-Burhan-headed Sovereign Council that was formed after the coup, told Al Jazeera the military takeover followed long discussions between political parties which failed to produce results.
“What happened on October 25 was the ultimate outcome of a long process since change started in Sudan. During the process, many discussions were made and many initiatives were proposed by various parties,” Dagalo, widely known as Hemeti, said in an interview.
“The prime minister himself proposed two initiatives and during our meetings … we made maximum efforts but we couldn’t reach a breakthrough. At that point we were left with three options, the best of which was the move we had taken.”
Sudan has been struggling with its transition to a democratic government since the military removed longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in 2019, following a mass uprising against three decades of his rule.
Since the coup last month, during which dozens of politicians and activists were arrested, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets in the largest demonstrations since those that ended al-Bashir’s reign.
Protest organisers dubbed Thursday as “Martyrs’ day”, to pay tribute to the 42 people killed, according to medics, in the crackdown against anti-coup demonstrators.
Demonstrators in Khartoum chanted slogans such as, “The people want the downfall of the regime”, while in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman others shouted, “Power to the people, a civilian government is the people’s choice”.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Omdurman, as well as in the central state of North Kordofan and in North Darfur, witnesses said.
Live streams on social media also showed protests in cities including Port Sudan, Kassala, Wad Madani and El Geneina.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said protesters were angry “at what they say was a betrayal by the prime minister for accepting to negotiate and to sign a deal with the military.
“Since the takeover, people have been demanding that the military completely step aside from the politics and hand over power to a complete civilian government, restoring the position of Hamdok, releasing all political prisoners but also having no role in the day to day affairs of the country,” Morgan said.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that spearheaded the uprising that culminated in al-Bashir’s removal, had called for the rallies and promised to carry on with protests until “the corrupt military junta is brought down and prosecuted for their crimes”.
The deal that Hamdok signed with the military on Sunday envisions an independent, technocratic cabinet to be led by the prime minister until new elections are held.
However, the government would still remain under military oversight. Hamdok said he would have the power to appoint ministers.
The deal also stipulates that all political detainees arrested following the coup be released. So far, several ministers and politicians have been freed. The number of those still in detention remains unknown.
On Wednesday, Hamdok told a local Sudanese television channel that unless all are released, “the deal will be worthless.”
Libya Gunmen Attack Court, Stop Gaddafi Son’s Election Ban Appeal
Gunmen have attacked a Libyan court before an appeal by the son of slain former ruler Muammar Gaddafi against the rejection of his presidential election candidacy, drawing alarm from the United Nations.
Libya’s government on Friday called the perpetrators a “group of outlaws” who launched an “odious” attack, which caused the court in the southern town of Sebha to shut.
A lawyer for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said armed men had prevented him from lodging an appeal on Thursday against his client’s disqualification from next month’s presidential election, adding to fears of turmoil around the vote.
Khaled al-Zaidi said in a video that armed men had raided the Sebha court, one of only three registration centres, and stopped him from entering to lodge his client’s appeal against disqualification.
Libya’s electoral commission had announced on Wednesday the rejection of the candidacy presented by Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.His was one of 25 candidacies disqualified by the commission to run in the December 24 vote that is part of an internationally-backed peace process aimed at ending a decade of chaos.
The unsuccessful applicants had been given 48 hours to appeal the decision.
Al-Zaidi said the attackers had forced all staff from the court building “at gunpoint” hours before the appeal hearing.
“This act is an obstacle to the electoral process,” he said in a video broadcast on Libyan media.
He added that the interior and justice ministries ordered an investigation into the attack.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said on Friday it was alarmed by the reported attack on the appeal court in Sebha, strongly condemned any form of electoral-related violence, and reiterated that the electoral process must be protected.
“The Mission reiterates its call for holding transparent, fair and inclusive elections on 24 December,” it said.
Disputes about issues including the eligibility of candidates are threatening to derail the election, as part of a UN-backed peace process initiated last year that saw the formation of an interim government.
The final list of candidates is due to be published by early December once verifications and appeals are completed.
The commission rejected Gaddafi’s candidacy on the grounds of the electoral law, which stipulated that candidates “must not have been sentenced for a dishonourable crime” and must present a clean criminal record.
Sebha is under the control of a group allied to the eastern-based Libyan National Army led by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, another of the main candidates in the election.
Haftar, a former CIA asset, is said to have United States nationality, which could also rule him out. Many people in western Libya also accuse him of war crimes committed during his 2019-20 assault on Tripoli.
Haftar denies war crimes and says he is not a US citizen.
Interim Prime Minister Hamid Dbeibah has described as “flawed” the election rules issued in September by the speaker of the eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, who is also a candidate.
In recent years, Saleh drew the ire of many people for lending support to Haftar’s failed assault on the UN-recognised government based in Tripoli last year.