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Sudan's military calls snap elections following Khartoum massacre

Protest leaders called for 'civil disobedience' after the deadly raid [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2019

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Sudan's military rulers cancelled a previously agreed upon civilian transition process and announced snap elections after a deadly attack on peaceful protesters on Monday.
Sudan's military ruler on Tuesday cancelled negotiations over civilian rule and declared snap elections, just one day after armed forces brutally attacked peaceful protesters in the capital Khartoum, killing at least 30 people.

Since a military junta seized power from former President Omar al-Bashir in an April coup, negotiators representing thousands of protesters have been engaged in stop-start talks over the transition to civilian rule.

Negotiations came to a standstill two weeks ago as the military refused to budge over whether a civilian would lead a proposed joint civilian-military transitional body.

The joint council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said on Tuesday, will now be scrapped and no further negotiations will follow.

Instead, general elections will be held within the next nine months despite the military having previously agreed to a transitional period of three years before elections are held.

Civilian negotiators the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) had earlier announced it would withdraw from talks with the "coup council".

The about-face came a day after Sudanese armed forces violently dispersed a 58-day-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital.

The raid came at dawn and was led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force led by the transitional military council's deputy leader, Mohammad Hamdan Daglo.

The RSF is an officialised offshoot the Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes in the Darfur conflict. The group, which many protesters simply refer to as the Janjaweed, has also been accused of severe human rights abuses in Sudan's Blue Nile and South Kordofan conflict zones.

RSF troops, police and other security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters, burning tents as they went in a series of events which has been compared by many to the Janjaweed's modus operandi in Darfur.

Videos distributed on social media pictured RSF and security forces beating demonstrators with truncheons.

There have also been reports of rape, attempted rape and other human rights violations, as well as looting by soldiers.

The troops then moved on to other parts of the city, travelling in large convoys and allegedly storming civilians' homes.

Armed forces remained on patrol on Tuesday morning, according to videos distributed on social media.

RSF troops in Khartoum on Monday [AFP]

'Impossible' to number

At least 35 people were killed in the deadly raid, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) and Sudan Doctors Syndicate (SDS) said late on Monday.

The SDS added that at least 650 people were wounded.

But the actual death toll is impossible to determine at this point, activists said.

RSF troops and police surrounded and "besieged" three Khartoum hospitals to which casualties had been taken for treatment, firing live bullets into the premises, eyewitnesses and the CCSD reported.

When leading protest organisers the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) called for doctors and medical volunteers to rush to hospitals in aid, eyewitnesses said RSF soldiers blocked them from entering.

Activists have also alleged that doctors treating protesters have faced beatings and even arrests.

The CCSD said on Monday that an uncounted number of dead bodies remained within the sit-in area. Civilians have been unable to evacuate the bodies at this time. Both the CCSD and eyewitnesses claimed that RSF troops threw a number of those bodies into the Nile river.

In response, the UN's human rights chief Michelle Bachelet joined a host of international officials condemning the attack and called for the military to "ensure safe, unimpeded access to medical care".

Amnesty International has urged the UN Security Council to consider placing sanctions on members of the military council responsible for the deadly raid.

The Security Council is set to meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the violence.

'Cleansing operation'

The military junta has denied attempting to disperse the sit-in, claiming that attacks were only limited to a zone just outside the sit-in area.

Blaming the attack on "infiltrators" from a neighbourhood seen as a hotbed for drug and alcohol abuse, the council on Wednesday said it "regretted" having carried out a "cleansing operation" in the area that had led to deaths.

The council's claims have been thoroughly denied by opposition activists and protesters.

Claiming to be "protectors" of the revolution dedicated to rooting out remnants of Bashir's regime, the military council added that loss of life was a "sacrifice required from everyone" in a revolution.

Council leader Burhan said that he had tasked the attorney general with investigating the deaths of demonstrators, for which the military has not yet released an official toll.

The upcoming elections will still result in civilian rule, he claimed.

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