Omdurman protests claim four lives

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At least four protesters were killed and a number injured by gunfire in the Sudanese city Omdurman, opposition medics said, as thousands took to the streets to pressure the country’s military rulers.

Organisers originally called for a million person march in cities across Sudan in response to the killing of young protesters in El-Obeid earlier this week.

Sudan has been gripped by months of political turmoil that climaxed in the army overthrowing long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April. Protesters kept up rallies since, pressuring the army to hand over to civilians, accusing security services of violence and decrying shortages and economic hardships that first triggered the unrest.

Thursday’s killings, reported by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, a main protest group, came as opposition leaders said there was some progress in talks with the military on a deal to form a new government.

Despite signing a deal in July which secured a three-year transition period and a joint sovereign council with rotating leadership, talks over the wording of a constitutional declaration on the changes stumbled.

“The agreement is just around the corner,” Satea al-Hajj, a leader in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition of opposition groups, said at a press conference in Khartoum on Thursday.

Negotiations over the declaration restarted late on Thursday night.

“IT’S TOO BAD”

The opposition demanded members of the sovereign council, intended to lead the country until elections, should not be have blanket immunity from prosecution for past crimes. FFC leaders said they agreed they could be granted ‘procedural immunity’ – meaning top officials could be tried with the permission of two-thirds of the legislative council.

Opposition leaders said both sides agreed another key point, reaffirming parties included in FFC would have 67% of the legislative council while the rest will go to other opposition and political groups.

In Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, protesters chanted “it’s too bad, it’s too bad, we don’t have an army,” expressing anger at the army for not protecting protesters.

Footage on social media showed protests in El-Obeid, North Kordofan state capital, and Wad Medani, Jazeera state capital.

The FFC accused military and paramilitary forces of firing at high school pupils protesting over bread and fuel shortages in El-Obeid on Monday.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main protest group and a leading voice in the FFC, accused the military of failing to protect civilians and of either being complicit in or neglecting to protect against roadblocks preventing “the masses from achieving the goals of the revolution.”

A senior army commander said a security force assigned to guard a bank was responsible for killing children protesting, the official SUNA news agency reported. Bank guards were from a government security force.

Opposition groups accused the main paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, of killing scores of protesters since Bashir was ousted and the RSF’s role remains a point of contention.

The FFC said the RSF should be merged into the armed forces, a proposal opposed by Sudan’s ruling generals, said al-Hajj.