CAIRO — Thousands of people took to the streets in the Sudanese capital on Friday, a day after nine people were killed in protests against the country’s ruling generals.
The United States and other members of the international community have condemned the violence in the East African country, which has been rocked by near-weekly protests since an October 25 coup shattered its fragile transition to democracy.
The Thursday rallies were the largest in months. Sudanese military authorities have responded to the protests with a deadly crackdown, which has so far killed 113 people, including 18 children.
In and around Khartoum, large funeral marches were held for some of those killed the day before, while others gathered after Friday prayers in mosques across the country’s capital. Online, photographs of the dead have been published, in some cases with the aim of identifying them.
The Sudanese Doctors Committee, a medical group that monitors victims of protests, said security forces shot dead nine people, including a child, in or near Khartoum during Thursday’s rallies. The protests coincided with widespread internet disruptions. Internet watchers and activists say the government has crippled communications to prevent rallies and slow the spread of information on days when large turnouts for protests are expected.
Sudan’s main pro-democracy groups – the Forces for Freedom and Change Declaration and the Resistance Committees – had called for a nationwide protest against the coup. The takeover upended the country’s short-lived transition to democracy following the 2019 ouster of longtime autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir.
Since the coup, the UN political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the group of eight countries of the East African Regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development have tried to find a way out of the political deadlock. But the talks have so far yielded no results.
In a joint statement tweeted on Friday, the three bodies expressed “disappointment at the continued use of excessive force by security forces and the lack of accountability for such actions, despite repeated commitments by authorities.”
Thursday’s protests also marked the third anniversary of a mass rally in 2019 that forced the generals to sit down at the negotiating table with pro-democracy groups and ultimately sign a power-sharing deal that was to govern Sudan for a period of transition, until general elections were to take place. Last October’s coup shattered this arrangement.
Western governments have repeatedly called on generals to allow peaceful protests, but have also drawn the ire of the protest movement for sometimes engaging with top generals. Pro-democracy leaders are calling on the generals to step down immediately.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life during yesterday’s protests,” the US Embassy in Sudan said in a statement on Friday. “We urge all parties to resume negotiations and call on voices of peace to rise above those who advocate or commit violence.”
Police said on Friday an investigation had been opened after video emerged online that 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 official news agency, police said the video shows security officers violating orders not to approach protests with firearms. He said those involved would be held accountable.
The country’s Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, has consistently denied the use of live fire on protesters, despite evidence to the contrary from activists and pro-democracy groups.