Sudanese military suspends talks with civilian forces hours after attack on demonstration

The RSF shot live ammunition at the protesters, injuring 14.  This the second attack on the protesters this week. On Monday, the RSF is believed to have killed four protesters and an army major.

May 17, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
The civilian forces have vowed the protests will continue. Photo: AFP

Unarmed protesters holding mass demonstrations to force the military junta to cede power to civilian authorities were attacked again on May 16 by the Rapid Security Forces (RSF). The RSF shot live ammunition at the protesters, injuring 14.  This the second attack on the protesters this week. On Monday, the RSF is believed to have killed four protesters and an army major.

Wednesday’s attack took place at the barricades erected to protect the sit-in demonstration before the army HQ in the capital city of Khartoum/ The RSF  is a notorious paramilitary force having in its ranks the fighters who participated in Darfur genocide.

Soon after this attack, the currently ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), whose vice-president heads the RSF, suspended the ongoing negotiations with the civilian Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF). The DFCF is a coalition of various civilian organizations that led the protest and political parties.

Only the night before, on May 15, the two sides had reached an agreement on jointly governing the country for a transition period of three years before calling for elections. It was agreed that  a legislative council of 300 members would be constituted, two-thirds of whom will be from the DFCF, implying that the rest will be chosen under the oversight of the military junta.

According to Khalid Omar Yousef, one of the DFCF leaders, the cabinet would also have been formed by the DFCF. However, the composition of the sovereign council remained a contested issue as the military had been insisting on dominating this body. It was expected a final agreement would be signed on Wednesday.

However, after attacking the protesters, the TMC suspended further negotiations for 72 hours. Within this period, the TMC has demanded that the barricades erected by the protesters at strategic locations across the city have be dismantled and the bridges connecting the capital city to outside regions opened.

But doing so would leave the mass demonstrations vulnerable to attacks as the army and its affiliated militia will then be able mobilize its vehicles across the city with ease. The TMC chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has insisted this would be necessary to create a “suitable atmosphere to complete an agreement”.

Preparation to defend against another assault is underway

Unfazed by his warning against “provoking the security forces”, protesters are now increasing their efforts to guard the barricades more systematically. The DFCF has called on the ‘inspection committees’, manning the checkpoints to ensure that nobody can carry into the demonstration weapons or other machines that can cause harm.

They’ve also been instructed to keep a watch for known members of the regime of Omar al-Bashir who was forced out from presidency on April 11 after months of mass-demonstrations. The guidelines issued also instructs the ‘field committees’, to periodically inspect the situation around the barricades and issue guidelines after consultations. Groups of protesters are taking turns to guard the barricades at all times.

Protesters have been asked to not respond to provocations or threats made by security forces or other affiliated elements. Further, in order to manage the safety of barricades and picket lines effectively, the following map has been issued by the DFCF.

The map shows various checkpoints at the barricades in Khartoum

“Commitment to this map reduces the possibility of” saboteurs entering the demonstration, DFCF has said.

One day before these guidelines were issued, a number of towns and cities across the country were rocked by protests and strike actions condemning the previous attack on the demonstration on Monday.

A number of judges, along with lawyers and advisers to the offices of Justice Minister and Attorney General, staged a protest before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, condemning the killings as a ‘massacre’. They also a demanded a restructuring of the judiciary in order to make the body capable of addressing the violations with fair trials, Radio Dabanga reported.

Residents in Wad Madani, the capital city of El Gezira State, marched in the hundreds to the sit-in demonstration in front of the state government’s secretariat in a show of solidarity. Many at this demonstration were injured last week when the security forces used live fire in an attempt to dismantle the barricades.

Protests and marches were also held in towns of other States, including North Kordofan, South Darfur, Red Sea state and Kassala.

At the large demonstration before the building of Sudatel in Khartoum, the employees of this telecommunications company, 60% of which is owned by the state demanded action against the killers. They also called for the dismissal of the company’s Director General, Tarig Hamza, who was labeled as “an agent of the former regime”.

Chanting slogans calling for action against the killers and for transition to civilian rule, employees of the Sudanese electricity network staged a protest in front of their offices. They have also demanded the dismissal of those staff members affiliated with Bashir’s regime or its militias.

Employees of Sudan’s central bank, along with those of nine other commercial banks and a number of private banks, also held a protest vigil. Both the bank and electricity network employees gave the TMC 24 hours on Tuesday to identify the perpetrators and put them on a trial.

What came on Wednesday, however, was another attack on the demonstration, following which, in the early hours of Thursday, the TMC announced that further negotiations will be suspended for 72 hours. Condemning the attack and the suspension of negotiations as “regrettable”, the DFCF said in a statement that the mass demonstrations would continue, with all the barricades and picket lines in place.