Sudanese protesters return to site of final Bashir rally

52

Sudanese demonstrators rolled out a banner honouring fallen protesters ar a square where ousted president Omar al-Bashir held a large rally in his final months in power.

Thousands of demonstrators, mostly teenagers and people in their early 20s, joined a rally in the square, which continued to grow into the late afternoon. Protesters said they were renaming it Freedom Square from Green Square.

At the top of a two-tier concrete stand where only Bashir and his allies were once allowed, young men covered a giant sign reading “The Green Square” with a banner saying: “Justice first … loyalty to the revolution’s martyrs”.

The protest came as the military council and an alliance of protest and opposition groups work to finalise a power sharing deal for a three-year transition to elections.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded months of protests ahead of Bashir’s overthrow in April, continued to call for rallies against the generals who replaced him as they push for a democratic transition.

Security forces including the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) occasionally cracked down on protests and in early June crushed a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry, killing dozens.

The SPA said security forces fired tear gas at a group marching to the square on Thursday. In the square itself people protested freely, some storming its manager’s office.

The manager, Mohamed Adam Araby, sided with protesters. “Those in the square are the revolution’s youth. They came for Sudan’s sake, unlike the masses who were paid to come,” he said, in a reference to Bashir supporters bussed in for his speeches.

“JUSTICE FIRST WEEK”

One group of protesters ran into the square carrying what they said was the boot and broken helmet of an RSF soldier, a Reuters witness said.

They also had sticks, which protesters regularly accuse RSF troops of using. Raising them high, they chanted against the paramilitary group.

At least four RSF helmets were swung in the air by protesters. One man held a riot police shield and flashed a peace sign.

The RSF grew out of Arab militias accused of carrying out atrocities in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. Its leader is also deputy head of the military council denied the allegations.

The demonstration caps “Justice first week”, a series of rallies organised by the SPA to demand retribution for those killed at protests.

“Blood for blood! We won’t accept blood money!” protesters chanted.

In January, three months before the military overthrew and detained him, Bashir held a rally in the Green Square, accusing the protest movement of being foreign agents and challenging them to seek power through the ballot box.

Mediators said negotiations would continue on a constitutional declaration meant to complete the power-sharing deal.

“I am happy to celebrate here,” Alaa al-Din Babeker, a 24-year-old engineer, told Reuters. “The joy will not be complete unless we win the constitutional declaration tomorrow.”