Sudanese police on the spot over protesters' deaths

Friday November 19 2021
Sudan protest.

People protesting against the military coup in Sudan march during a demonstration in "Street 60" in the east of capital Khartoum on November 13, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


Sudan’s security agencies are facing pressure to slow down on a crackdown of protesters opposed to last month’s forceful takeover of government by the military.

And mounting criticism rose this week after more than a dozen protesters were killed in the capital Khartoum as police descended on street protests on Wednesday in the deadliest day since the coup on October 25.


Washington, one of Sudan’s main donors for the transitional project, said the Sudanese military junta must allow peaceful street protests, besides reiterating on the call to restore a civilian-led government.

The United States is gravely concerned by the use of deadly force against peaceful protesters yesterday (Wednesday) in Sudan,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday while on a tour of Kenya.

“Sudanese authorities should respect the right of all in Sudan to peacefully assemble and freely express their demand for restoration of the civilian-led transition.”


The protesters have been marching on the streets since October 25 when the military toppled a civilian-led transitional government under Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and dissolved his cabinet.

Security officers have been using tear gas to disperse people since the protests began, but the demonstrations turned deadly on Wednesday when police shot at protesters.

The local Doctors Central Committee said 15 people had died while other sources put the number at 17.

“This violence and aggression against peaceful demonstrators constitute violations of basic human rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and protection of civilians,” said Josep Borrell, EU’s High Representative, on Friday.

“The military power should heed the call of the people and return to constitutional order. Prime Minister Hamdok must be re-instated and allowed to form a civilian government. All detainees since 25 October should be immediately released.”

On Wednesday, military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan told the media that Hamdok would be welcome to lead the re-established transitional government should he choose to return.

But he blamed “foreign interference and certain political forces” for distorting the reasons behind the dissolution of the transitional government. According to him, Hamdok’s administration had fallen victim to wrangles and the military’s action cured the problem. He maintained that the military’s actions did not amount to a coup.

The police force was this week also fighting back accusations of brutality. The law keepers say protesters violently charged at police, forcing the officers to respond in kind.

‘Not peaceful’

Khartoum Police Director Lieutenant-General Zine El Abidine Othman on Thursday said that some of the demonstrations in Sudan during the past days “were not peaceful and were interspersed by attacks on the security forces," adding that police "are working to secure protests, and will continue to protect state institutions.”

Othman rejected claims that police acted with unproportioned violence.

He said the police have had good relations with peaceful protesters over the years, pointing out that officers guarded the marches that led to the ouster of former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

Bashir was removed by the military, which had been late to the party, but crossed the street and joined protesters after it became clear Bashir would not last long.

Now in charge, the military is facing the same accusations of brutality against civilians who are opposed to the coup.

“During this period, the police are working to secure the movement and the demonstrators. All these were passing peacefully under the guard of the security services,” Othman said.

'Unnecessary force'

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, condemned the Sudanese security force’s use of live ammunition against peaceful demonstrators.

“After our repeated appeals to the military and security authorities to refrain from using unnecessary force it is completely shameful, as live ammunition was used again yesterday, Wednesday, against the demonstrators,” she said in a statement.

But even as the police chief in Khartoum spoke to journalists, police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters in Al-Muasasa, a suburb north of Khartoum.

Demonstrators spent the night in front of the barricades they set up in north Khartoum, continuing to protest against the military coup and defying a complete blackout of the internet and phone call Thursday.

Later on Thursday, Sudanese authorities switched on limited internet services, following a court order.

Security forces deployed heavily on main streets and junctions, used tear gas to keep protesters away from assembly points, and closed bridges across the Nile that connect the capital Khartoum to the cities of Khartoum North and Omdurman.