Sudan demonstrations mark 40 days since crackdown

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Thousands demonstrated in cities across Sudan on Saturday to mark 40 days since security forces killed dozens when they stormed a protest camp in Khartoum.

The demonstrations were the first since the ruling military council and civilian opposition agreed in principle to a power sharing arrangement ahead of elections. The deal has yet to be finalised and signed.

A meeting between the sides planned for Saturday was postponed to Sunday, a leader of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition told Reuters. The military council denied the meeting being delayed.

“Saturday’s session will discuss the constitutional document as determined by the mediation,” state news agency SUNA said, citing the council.

African Union mediator Mohamed Hassan Lebatt said the council and the FFC would meet on Saturday to study and ratify a constitutional declaration. They agreed to a political declaration determining the transition’s different institutions, he said.

After the meeting, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which leads the FFC, said: “The draft constitutional declaration is ‘not final’ and not open to final signature in current form.”

The constitutional declaration’s signing was pushed to Sunday for further consultations based on FFC’s wishes, Lebatt said.

In Khartoum on Saturday, thousands protested on Sitteen Street, a major thoroughfare. Some lit candles to remember those killed at the protest camp on June 3, while others lit torches on mobile phones.

“We came to express our opinion and convey our voice and salute the memory of our eternal martyrs,” said protester Mostafa Sayed Ahmed.

Six paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) vehicles, each carrying men armed with assault rifles and sticks, drove through part of Sitteen Street as protesters chanted “Civilian!” at them, a Reuters witness said.

“The fate of the former regime, to us, until now, is vague and many things are unclear,” said Osama Iskandar, a young protester, referring to the government of Omar al-Bashir, overthrown on April 11.

“We will be on the streets until our demands are fulfilled,” he said.

A Reuters witness saw more than 20 RSF vehicles carrying men in riot gear at Abu Janzir Square in Khartoum.

“Look at these crushed people,” said Hussein Ismail, a middle-age demonstrator chanting “We either get their rights or die like them!”

“Their demands are clear, a civilian government, a democratic state, which is a people that calls for justice and peace and love.”

Several hundred also demonstrated in Khartoum’s Burri neighbourhood, a working-class district and the cradle of many protests. RSF troops stood on roads surrounding Burri, armed with sticks.

“Blood for blood, even if we get civilian rule!” protesters chanted.

Security forces used barbed wire to block a main road leading to the Defence Ministry compound, the site of the protest camp crushed by security forces in June, a Reuters witness said.

At least 128 people were killed during the raid and in the two weeks following, according to doctors linked to the opposition. Government confirmed at least 61 deaths.

Across the Blue Nile, hundreds protested in Shambat and al-Mazad neighbourhoods of Khartoum North.

In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, hundreds demonstrated on al-Arbaeen Street. Thousands turned out in Wad Madani, capital of Jazeera state, while others protested in Port Sudan, capital of Red Sea state, and Al-Ubayyid, capital of North Kordofan.

General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the Transitional Military Council and head of the RSF, which controls Khartoum and whose members are accused of violently dispersing the sit-in outside the Defence Ministry, defended the latter’s role in maintaining security.

“Rapid Support are not angels, but we prosecute every offender,” Dagalo, known by his nickname Hemedti, said in a televised speech. “Were it not for Rapid Support, Khartoum’s situation would be different.”