Thousands of Sudanese pro-democracy protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Khartoum on Sunday, defying tear gas, a mass deployment of armed soldiers and a power outage for telecommunications.
They demonstrated against a coup on October 25, initiated by military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and shouted “power to the people” and demanded that “the military return to the barracks”.
As with previous demonstrations, which have become regular since the coup, the authorities have set up roadblocks, with freight containers blocking the bridges across the Nile between the capital and the outlying areas.
The internet and mobile phones have not worked since the morning and security forces sat on armored vehicles with heavy machine guns watching passers-by.
But thousands of Sudanese still came out to demonstrate “in memory of the martyrs”, with at least 54 protesters killed in street violence since the coup, according to medical sources.
The web monitoring group NetBlocks said that mobile internet services decreased from the middle of the morning before the planned protests, the first of the year.
Activists use the internet to organize demonstrations and broadcast live footage of the demonstrations.
Sudan, with a long history of military coups, has undergone a fragile journey against civilian rule since autocrat Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019 after popular mass protests.
But the country has plunged into chaos since Burhan – Sudan’s de facto leader after the ouster of Bashir – launched his coup and imprisoned Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Hamdok was reinstated on November 21, but mass protests have continued as protesters distrust veteran General Burhan and his promises to try to steer the country towards full democracy.
54 killed since the coup
Activists have launched a more than two-month-long street demonstration against the army’s takeover, despite a crackdown that has seen at least 54 people killed and hundreds injured, according to the pro-democracy Medical Committee.
The rallies have been repeatedly broken up by security forces who fired tear gas, as well as accusations from police waving batons.
On Thursday, six people were shot dead in Khartoum when security forces stormed rallies that saw tens of thousands take to the streets chanting “no to military rule”.
Burhan insists that the military move “was not a coup” but a push to “correct the course of the transition”. On Friday, a close adviser warned that “the demonstrations are just a waste of energy and time” which will not lead to “any political solution”.
Activists say 2022 will be “the year of resistance” in social media posts.
They demand justice for those killed since the coup and those over 250 who died during the mass protests that began in 2019 and paved the way for the overthrow of Bashir.
Activists have condemned sexual assaults during protests on December 19, in which the UN said at least 13 women and girls were victims of rape or gang rape.
The European Union and the United States made a joint statement condemning the use of sexual violence “as a weapon to drive women out of demonstrations and silence their voices”.
More than 14 million people, one in three Sudanese, will need humanitarian aid next year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the highest level in a decade.