Sudan’s security forces have fired tear gas at demonstrators in Khartoum, a day after at least nine protesters were killed during fresh mass demonstrations against last year’s military coup.
On Friday, protesters gathered near the presidential palace in the capital, as protest groups demanding a return to democratic rule said they will organize an open-ended campaign of sit-ins and other peaceful actions in response to the deaths.
“The sit-in can develop but we must fortify it properly,” a protester told Reuters as he stood with others drinking tea and writing out slogans in central Khartoum. “Those who have come from Omdurman can join our sit-in and others from surrounding areas as well can join.”
Pro-democracy medics aligned with the protesters said most of the nine people were killed by security forces’ gunfire in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri.
Also on Friday, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement that another protester who was beaten during demonstrations in the capital a week earlier had died of his injuries, bringing the number of protester deaths since the coup to 113.
On Thursday, large crowds took to the streets to mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir.
The participants were also demanding an end to military rule by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Witnesses estimated the crowds in the capital Khartoum and the adjoining cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be at least in the tens of thousands.
In central Khartoum, paramilitary troops fired tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching toward the presidential palace.
Khartoum State police said in a statement that dozens of members of the security forces had also been injured, some of them seriously.
Rights lawyers said at least 150 protesters had been detained on Thursday. The military authorities have not released their own estimates of arrests or deaths.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the United Nations, the African Union, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said they condemned “in the strongest terms possible the use of excessive force by security forces.”
“We once again call on authorities to take all necessary measures to stop the violence, stop arbitrary arrests and detentions, and respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly,” the statement read.
Thursday’s demonstrations came after more than eight months of demonstrations against military leaders who staged a coup last year, impeding the transition of power to a civilian ruling structure in the country.
The Sudanese military, led by al-Burhan, seized power in October 2021, after detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other civilian leaders and dissolving the year-old transitional government as well as the joint ruling military-civilian sovereign council formed after the 2019 ouster of Bashir.
Back then, al-Burhan declared a state of emergency and vowed to form what he called a competent government. The move drew anger and outrage across the North African country and sparked international condemnation, including from the UN Security Council.
The country has been rocked by protests ever since, leaving over 100 people dead and hundreds injured. Hundreds of activists have also been arrested in the clampdown under emergency laws.
Sudan, home to 45 million people, is also dealing with a severe economic crisis and an inflation rate reaching 400 percent.