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Sudan protesters call for nationwide 'civil disobedience'

More than 100 people were killed in Sudan this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 June, 2019

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The Sudanese Professionals Association and the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors called for nationwide disobedience on Sunday.

A key protest group on Saturday announced a nationwide "civil disobedience" campaign it said would run until Sudan's ruling generals transfer power to a civilian government.

The call by the Sudanese Professionals Association, which first launched protests against longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, came days after a bloody crackdown on demonstrators left dozens dead in Khartoum and crushed hopes for a swift democratic transition. 

"The civil disobedience movement will begin Sunday and end only when a civilian government announces itself in power on state television," the SPA said in a statement.

"Disobedience is a peaceful act capable of bringing to its knees the most powerful weapons arsenal in the world."

It was still unclear how the campaign would unfold on the streets, especially in Khartoum where all key roads and squares have been deserted since Monday's crackdown.

Led by men in army fatigues, the raid on the weeks-long sit-in outside the army complex left at least 113 people dead, according to doctors close to the demonstrators.

The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide in the crackdown, 52 of them by "live ammunition" in Khartoum.

Witnesses say the assault was led by the feared Rapid Support Forces (RSF), who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia, accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004.

The call for "civil disobedience" came amid calls from a Sudanese doctors coalition the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) that pledged a similar "medical disobedience" also due to start on Sunday.

Protesters across the country have said they will participate in the campaign, calling for the an end to the rule of the military junta and a swift transition to civilian rule.

Calls for civil disobedience came a day after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Khartoum seeking to revive talks between the generals and protest leaders on the country's transition.

Protest leaders arrested

Sudan's military council seized power in April after ousting Bashir on the back of months-long protests against his three-decade rule.

Since then, it has resisted calls from protesters and Western nations to transfer power to a civilian administration.

Several rounds of talks with the demonstrators finally broke down in mid-May.

In a bid to revive the negotiations, the Ethiopian premier held separate meetings with the two sides in Khartoum on Friday.

"The army, the people and political forces have to act with courage and responsibility by taking quick steps towards a democratic and consensual transitional period," Abiy said in a statement after the meetings.

Read more: Is Sudan facing a counterrevolution?

"The army has to protect the security of the country and its people and political forces have to think about the future of the country." 

But three members of an opposition delegation that met the Ethiopian premier were later arrested, their aides said on Saturday.

Opposition politician Mohamed Esmat was detained Friday, while Ismail Jalab, a leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), was taken from his home overnight.

Esmat and Jalab are both leading members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella of opposition parties and some rebel groups.

The Alliance, of which the SPA is a key member, was the main organiser of mass protests since December that led to Bashir's ouster.

Call for international probe

The arrests threaten to further complicate efforts to reconcile the protest movement and the generals.

Following Monday's brutal crackdown, chances of a quick democratic transition appear remote as protest leaders now insist that talks with the generals can resume only under certain conditions.

"The Transitional Military Council has to admit the crime it committed," Omar al-Digeir, a prominent protest leader told reporters on Friday after meeting Abiy.

He demanded an international probe into "the massacre at the sit-in" and called for all military forces to be removed from streets across the country.

Digeir said the military council should also restore access to the internet and allow public and media freedoms.

Since the crackdown, Khartoum residents have mostly been sheltering indoors and the streets have been deserted.

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