Khartoum streets deserted as civil disobedience campaign kicks in

43

A campaign of civil disobedience to demand civilian rule left the streets of Khartoum largely deserted as the working week began on Sunday and a 20-year-old man was shot dead in Omdurman, witnesses and opposition medics said.

Opposition and protest groups called workers to stay at home after security forces stormed a protest camp last week, killing dozens and dealing a blow to hopes of a peaceful transition after the overthrow of president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April.

Transitional Military Council (TMC) spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi said the council was willing to listen to opposition demands and restart negotiations, halted after the camp attack.

After the raid, TMC head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan scrapped all agreements with the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), an opposition alliance, and called for elections within nine months. The opposition rejected the plans.

The raid came after weeks of wrangling between the TMC, which took over from Bashir, and the DFCF over who should steer a transition leading to elections.

Protesters took to the streets in several Khartoum neighbourhoods amid heavy security. Security forces fired shots into the air and used tear gas to disperse protesters in Khartoum North, witnesses said.

Elsewhere there were few pedestrians or vehicles. Public transport was barely functioning and most commercial banks, private companies and markets were shut, though some state banks and public utility offices were open.

“CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT NEEDED”

“We will not go back to work until the opposition Sudanese Professionals’ Association announces the end of the strike,” said Ahmad al-Noor, a 46-year-old employee at a private food company. “Sudan must be governed by a civilian government.”

The SPA, which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests, is part of the DFCF.

At Khartoum airport, where few flights were operating, travellers crowded the departure hall. Most travel agencies closed because of an internet outage and ticket prices soared.

State news agency SUNA said the airport was “operating normally” and reported “complete attendance of employees in different airport units”.

Kabbashi told Sky News Arabia that “life was not affected much by the disobedience ”.

Later on Sunday, the head of the TMC security committee told SUNA the DFCF was responsible for “unfortunate events” he said were caused by  “irrational practices of the so-called neighbourhood resistance committees, which use children and force them to close roads and erect barricades in flagrant violation of the law”.

He said “organised groups paid by certain parties” attacked police buildings and checkpoints, seeking to “obtain weapons and transfer their battles against the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces into the capital and big cities”.

He said the TMC would reinforce security to “restore normal life”, facilitate movement and guard strategic facilities.

PROTESTER SHOT

In Omdurman, across the Nile, 20-year-old Ayman Osama died after being shot in the chest at a road barricade, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on social media, accusing a paramilitary force of killing him. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had no immediate comment.

Witnesses say the RSF led last Monday’s raid. Its troops are deployed in Khartoum, some with machine guns mounted on pickup trucks.

The RSF grew out of the Arab Janjaweed militias accused of committing atrocities in Darfur during a civil war that began in 2003. Bashir’s government denied allegations the militias burned villages and raped and executed civilians.

State television reported a senior commander of the RSF, whose leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is deputy head of the TMC, was replaced.

Opposition medics put the death toll at 118 in the storming of the camp outside Khartoum’s Defence Ministry and subsequent security crackdown. Government put the death toll at 61, including three members of the security services.

On Sunday, banking expert Mohamed Ahmed Bushra said he turned down an offer from the TMC to become deputy governor of the central bank.

He told Reuters current conditions and the failure to form a transitional civilian government made it difficult for the central bank to implement measures to address Sudan’s economic crisis.