Thousands of people have taken part in protests against last month’s coup in Sudan, with security forces shooting dead at least 15 people and wounding dozens of others, medics said.
The fatalities – all in the capital Khartoum, especially its northern districts – raised the death toll to 39 following protests since the military seized power, a pro-democracy doctors’ union said. Hundreds more have been wounded.
Protesters marched in neighborhoods across Khartoum and its twin cities of Bahri and Omdurman on Wednesday as security forces fired live bullets and tear gas after mobile phone communications were cut earlier in the day.
Police have denied using live ammunition and state television announced an investigation into the deaths.
In a statement, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said security forces “used live bullets heavily in different areas of the capital” and that there are “tens of gunshot injuries, some of them in serious condition”.
The doctors’ union said most of the casualties had suffered gunshot wounds to “the head, neck or torso”, but added that the demonstrators, undeterred and behind makeshift barricades, kept up their protests.
The CCSD also said security forces had arrested injured people inside Khartoum hospitals.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella of unions instrumental in the 2019 protests, denounced “immense crimes against humanity” and accused the security forces of “premeditated killings”.
“The day’s massacre reinforces our slogans: no negotiations, no partnership, no compromise” with the military, said protest organizers from the SPA.
Demands for civilian rule
The demonstrators took to the streets in defiance of a deadly crackdown by security forces that has killed dozens of people since the military seized power last month. The protesters are demanding a full handover to civilian rule and for the coup leaders to be tried in court.
Sudan’s top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declared a state of emergency on October 25, dissolved the government and detained the civilian leadership.
Last week, al-Burhan appointed a new governing Sovereign Council, replacing the country’s transitional government, which comprised of civilian and military figures.
It was formed in 2019 as part of a power-sharing agreement between members of the army and civilians with the task of overseeing Sudan’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising led to the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.
Some protesters on Wednesday carried pictures of people killed in previous protests and of Abdalla Hamdok, the civilian prime minister who was placed under house arrest during the coup, with the slogan: “Legitimacy comes from the street, not from the cannons.”
Images of protests in towns and cities including Port Sudan, Kassala, Dongola, Wad Madani and Geneina were posted on social media.
Our reporter from Khartoum, said some protesters were demanding that the army not take up any role in politics.
“Many of them are still demanding a return to civilian rule,” she said, speaking from Khartoum. “They say they want to return to a democratic process that was under way before the army took over in late October.”
The renewed protests came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Africans to watch out for rising threats to democracy as he began a three-nation tour of the continent in Kenya.
“We have seen over the last decade or so what some call a democratic recession,” Blinken said in Nairobi.
The United States has suspended some $700m in assistance to Sudan in response to the coup.
Three teenagers were among those who lost their lives during the latest mass protests on Saturday, which were met with the deadliest crackdown since the October 25 coup.
The CCSD earlier named some of the protesters killed, including 13-year-old Remaaz Hatim al-Atta, who was shot in the head in front of her family’s home in Khartoum, and Omar Adam who was shot in his neck during protests in the capital city.
The military takeover sparked a chorus of international condemnation, including punitive aid cuts, with world powers demanding a swift return to civilian rule.
Demonstrators have rallied since, despite internet outages and disruptions of communication lines, which forced activists to disseminate calls for protests via graffiti and SMS messages.
Since last month’s coup, more than 100 government officials and political leaders, along with a large number of demonstrators and activists, have been arrested.
Pro-democracy groups have promised to continue protesting until the return of the Sovereign Council.
In an interview with our reporters earlier this month, al-Burhan said he was committed to handing over power to a civilian government, promising not to participate in any government that comes after the transitional period. But last week he announced the formation of a new Sovereign Council and appointed himself as its head.