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Demonstrators march across Sudan against military rule, economic woes

Sudanese protesters take part in ongoing demonstrations calling for civilian rule and denouncing the military administration, in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, on March 14, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Sudanese protesters have rallied across the African country against persisting military rule and economic woes, while security forces reportedly opened fire to disperse them.

On Monday, demonstrators in the capital Khartoum took to the streets against the October coup and rising prices, as the cost of bread and transport has soared sharply in recent weeks and the Sudanese pound has lost around a third of its value, mostly in February.

The rally, however, was blocked by security forces, who opened fire to prevent protesters from reaching the presidential palace.

Other cities across Sudan also witnessed similar protests.

“Down with military rule”, protesters chanted in Damazin, a city some 450 kilometers from Khartoum.

Protesters, mostly students, also held rallies in the cities of Atbara, Nyala, and Damazin early on Monday against soaring costs, resistance committees reported.

In Nyala, security forces fired a barrage of tear gas canisters to disperse large crowds of protesters. “No to rising costs, No to military rule,” people shouted.

Teachers also continued a strike on Monday, as did railway workers in Atbara, in River Nile State in northeastern Sudan, protesting low salaries.

Separately, security forces also reportedly used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.

More than two years ago, massive anti-government demonstrations hit Sudan. The main grievance was about economic woes. The protesters, youths for a large part, demanded the resignation of then-president Omar al-Bashir, who was ultimately deposed in 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 last year and dissolved the fragile government, as a result of which Abdalla Hamdok, the then prime minister, was detained and put under house arrest. The takeover 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 prime minister, all political prisoners detained during the coup would be released, and a 2019 constitutional declaration would be the basis for a political transition.

According to the deal, July 2023 has been set as the date for Sudan’s first free elections since 1986. The coup, however, triggered new waves of ongoing protests across the country, demanding an all-civilian rule with no participation of the military.

On January 2, Hamdok resigned, leaving the military fully in charge. He said Sudan was at a “dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival.”

Anti-coup demonstrations, however, often face a violent crackdown by security forces. At least 84 people have so far been killed in security crackdowns.

The UN has pressured the Sudanese military to end the crackdown and restore a civilian-led government to complete the country’s transition.

The economic crisis in Sudan deepened when October’s military coup drew broad international condemnation and punitive measures that included a suspension of $700 million in US aid.

The African country, home to 45 million people, is also dealing with a severe economic crisis and an inflation reaching 400 percent.

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