At least one man was shot dead after Sudan’s security forces attacked thousands of anti-coup protesters with tear gas in the African country’s major cities, including capital Khartoum and Omdurman.
The deadly incident occurred on Sunday, when an anti-coup protester was hit by a tear gas canister in the neck and lost his life, the independent Central Committee of Doctors in Sudan said in a statement.
This brought a tally of casualties since a military coup in October to 62.
The security forces fired tear gas canisters to disperse large crowds of pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum and Omdurman who were marching toward the presidential palace despite roadblocks erected to prevent people converging there and at army headquarters.
“No, no to military rule,” anti-coup protesters chanted as they waved the national flag.
More than two years ago, massive anti-government demonstrations hit Sudan, mostly over the economy, demanding the resignation of the then-president Omar al-Bashir, who was ultimately ousted through a military coup in April 2019, after ruling over the country for three decades.
In August the same year, a transitional civilian-military administration was founded to run the country. However, Sudan's military chief and de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged a coup on October 25 and dissolved the fragile government, putting the then-prime minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest and detaining other civilian leaders.
The coup infuriated the Sudanese and sparked international outcry, including from the UN Security Council.
Hamdok was later released and on November 21 signed a power-sharing deal with the Burhan-led junta, according to which the former would continue his career as premier and a 2019 constitutional declaration would be the basis for a political transition. According to the deal, July 2023 was set as the date for Sudan's first free elections since 1986.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), however, has completely rejected the deal, lambasting it as being “treacherous”. Pro-democracy SPA is an umbrella of 17 different unions that were instrumental in the months-long demonstrations that led to Bashir's ouster.
Protest rallies against the coup have continued even after the reinstatement of Hamdok, with demonstrators demanding no military involvement at all in government. They say the deal has simply given a cloak of legitimacy to the generals, who they accuse of trying to form an autocratic regime like the one led by ousted Bashir.
On January 2, Hamdok resigned, leaving the military fully in charge. He said Sudan was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival.”
The mediation by the United Nations succeeded in the weeks after the coup to reinstate Hamdok, but his resignation deepened uncertainty around the African country’s political future and a transition towards elections scheduled for 2023.
UN Special Representative Volker Perthes said in a statement on Saturday that the world body plan to invite military leaders, political parties, and other groups in Sudan to participate in a “political process” aimed at resolving current crisis.
However, the SPA said on Sunday that it completely “rejected” the UN-facilitated talks.
“The way to resolve the Sudanese crisis begins with the complete overthrow of the putschist military council and the handover of its members to face justice over the killings committed against the defenseless (and) peaceful Sudanese people,” it said in a statement.
The UN Security Council is to meet on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Sudan.
Last month, Burhan issued a decree allowing security forces to detain individuals “over crimes related to the state of emergency”, a move that effectively banned street protest rallies.
He insists that the October military takeover “was not a coup” but only meant to “rectify the course of the Sudanese transition.”