Police move in to quell Sudan civil disobedience campaign
Warning shots and tear gas fired at demonstrators before their makeshift roadblocks are removed
Khartoum — Sudanese police fired warning shots on Sunday to disperse protesters building roadblocks in the capital, as part of a civil disobedience campaign against the ruling generals following a bloody crackdown that left dozens dead.
The campaign got under way nearly a week after the assault on demonstrators at a sit-in outside army headquarters, which followed talks breaking down between protest leaders and military rulers.
Following the call for civil disobedience, protesters set about building roadblocks in Khartoum while markets and shops were closed in several other towns and cities.
In the capital’s northern Bahari district, people collected tyres, tree trunks and rocks to build new roadblocks.
“Almost all internal roads of Bahari have roadblocks. Protesters are even stopping residents from going to work,” a witness said.
But riot police swiftly moved in, firing gunshots in the air and tear gas at demonstrators before clearing the makeshift barriers, he said.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, which first launched protests against longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in December, said the civil disobedience campaign would continue until the military rulers transfer power to a civilian government.
In the Bahari district, onlookers saw a police truck full of people in civilian clothing but it was not possible to confirm whether they were arrested demonstrators. Khartoum residents have mostly remained indoors since Monday, when men in military fatigues raided the protest camp and killed dozens of people.
Several vehicles of the feared Rapid Support Forces (RSF), blamed by witnesses for the killings, were seen on Sunday moving across some parts of the capital loaded with machine guns. The RSF were also seen surrounding the main electricity station.
Residents in Khartoum have remained on edge since the raid on the sit-in, which killed at least 115 people, according to doctors close to the demonstrators. The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide in the crackdown, 49 of them by live ammunition in Khartoum.
Several airlines have scrapped their Sudan flights since the deadly raid and passengers were left waiting outside Khartoum airport’s departures terminal on Sunday, although it was unclear whether any flights would take off.
The central business district was largely shut and buses were not running in several districts, but private vehicles were ferrying passengers in some areas.
In Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, across the River Nile, many shops and markets remained closed but residents were seen buying staples in some grocery stores. Troops were seen removing roadblocks from some streets in Omdurman.
In the central city of Al-Obeid, the main market was shut and several bank employees did not report to work, residents said. In the town of Madani, south-east of the capital, people were queueing outside closed bakeries while the main market was also shut.
“I went to three bakeries and have been unable to buy bread,” a Madani resident said, adding that protesters had built roadblocks on several streets making it difficult for vehicles to pass.
It was the tripling of bread prices that first triggered protests against Bashir in December, which later turned into a nationwide movement against his ironfisted rule. After the president was ousted in April, demonstrators remained camped out for weeks in Khartoum to pressure the ruling generals into transferring power.
After several rounds of negotiations between protest leaders and the military, talks broke down in the middle of May.
Witnesses say the subsequent assault on the sit-in was led by the RSF, who have their origins in the notorious Janjaweed militia, accused of abuses in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2004.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed travelled to Sudan on Friday in a bid to revive negotiations, holding separate meetings with the two sides after which he called for a quick democratic transition.