Thousands of people demonstrate in Sudan a day after 9 deaths during protests

Thousands of people took to the streets on Friday in Sudan’s capital, a day after nine people were killed in demonstrations against the country’s ruling generals.

The United States and other members of the international community have condemned the violence in this East African nation, which has been rocked by nearly weekly protests since an Oct. 25 coup upended its fragile transition to democracy.

The Thursday rallies were the largest seen in months. The Sudanese military authorities have responded to the protests with a deadly crackdown, which has so far killed 113 people, including 18 children.

In and near Khartoum, large funeral marches were held for some of those killed the day before, while others gathered after Friday prayers at mosques in the country’s capital. Photos of the dead were posted online, in some cases in an effort to identify them.

The Sudanese Medical Committee, a medical group that monitors casualties from the demonstrations, said security forces shot and killed nine people, including a child, in or near Khartoum during demonstrations on Thursday. The demonstrations coincided with widespread internet outages. Internet monitors and activists say the government has paralyzed communications to prevent gatherings and delay the spread of news on days when large turnouts are expected in the protests.

Sudan’s main pro-democracy groups (Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change and Resistance Committees) had called for nationwide protests against the coup. The inauguration upended the country’s short-lived transition to democracy following the 2019 ouster of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir.

Since the coup, the UN political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the eight-nation East African region’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development group have been trying to find a way out of the political deadlock. But the talks have yielded no results so far.

In a joint statement tweeted Friday, the three bodies expressed “disappointment at the continued use of excessive force by security forces and lack of accountability for such actions, despite repeated commitments from the authorities.”

Thursday’s protests also fell on the third anniversary of a 2019 mass demonstration that forced the generals to come to the negotiating table with pro-democracy groups and finally sign a power-sharing deal that was expected to rule Sudan during a transition period, until the general elections were to be held. The coup d’état last October shattered this arrangement.

Western governments have repeatedly called on generals to allow peaceful protests, but have also angered the protest movement for sometimes engaging with top generals. Pro-democracy leaders ask the generals to leave power immediately.

“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life in yesterday’s protests,” the US Embassy in Sudan said in a statement on Friday. “We urge all parties to resume negotiations and call on peaceful voices to rise above those who defend or commit acts of violence.”

Police said on Friday an investigation was launched after a video circulated online, which appeared to show security forces pushing and kicking a seriously injured protester in the street the day before. According to pro-democracy groups, the protester later died. In a statement posted on the website of the country’s state news agency, police said the video shows security personnel violating orders not to approach demonstrations with firearms. He said those involved would be held accountable.

The country’s Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, has consistently denied using live fire against protesters, despite evidence to the contrary from pro-democracy activists and groups.

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