Sudan braces for new protests three years after revolution

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Sudan braces for new protests three years after revolution

KHARTOUM: Opposition activists in Sudan were set for new protests Sunday to mark the third anniversary of mass demonstrations that ended the dictatorship of president Omar al-Bashir as fears mount for the democratic transition.

Political parties and neighbourhood committees said they were mobilising thousands of supporters to demonstrate against General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the bloody crackdown he has led since his October 25 coup.

"No negotiation, no partnership and no legitimacy," is the slogan adopted by the organisers, who are bitterly opposed to a new partnership deal that civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok struck with the military while still under effective house arrest last month.

Hamdok was reinstated under the November 21 agreement, which also set July 2023 as the date for Sudan's first free elections since 1986.

But it alienated many of Hamdok's pro-democracy supporters who dismissed it as a gift to the generals that provided a cloak of legitimacy for Burhan's coup.

Previous protests against the military takeover have been forcibly dispersed by the security forces. Nationwide, at least 45 people have been killed and scores wounded, according to the independent Doctors' Committee.

December 19 has a particular resonance in Sudanese history.

Not only was it the day in 2018 that thousands launched mass protests that ended Bashir's three decades in power, it was also the day in 1955 when Sudanese lawmakers declared independence from British colonial rule.

Military in 'complete control'

Following Bashir's ousting, a joint military-civilian transitional government took power but the troubled alliance was shattered by Burhan's coup.

"The coup has put obstacles in the way of the democratic transition and has given the military complete control over politics and the economy," Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, chief editor of the independent Al-Jarida newspaper, told AFP.

Sudan's military dominates lucrative companies specialising in everything from agriculture to infrastructure projects.

The prime minister said last year that 80 percent of the state's resources were "outside the finance ministry's control".

"The security apparatus has won out over political institutions. The success of a democratic transition rests on political action being the driving force," Abdel-Aziz said.

For Khaled Omer, a minister in the ousted government, the coup was a "catastrophe" but also "an opportunity to rectify the deficiencies" of the previous political arrangement with the army.

He warned that anything could happen over the next few months with the military still firmly in power.

"If the main political actors don't get their act together and the miliary establishment doesn't distance itself from politics... then all scenarios are on the table," Omer said.

Gains unravelling

But those achievements have been unravelling as the political turbulence in Khartoum rekindles conflicts in Sudan's far-flung regions that Hamdok's government had made a priority to resolve.

A peace deal it signed with key rebel groups in South Sudan's capital Juba last year saw the main conflict in Darfur subside, but the region remains awash with weapons and nearly 250 people have been killed in ethnic and tribal clashes over the past two months.

Some of the Arab militias that Bashir's government used as a counter-insurgency force in its infamous campaign against ethnic minority rebels in the early 2000s have been integrated into the security apparatus and critics say the deal did nothing to bring them to account.

"The Juba agreement did not solve Darfur's problems and that's why we're seeing this conflict flaring again," Abdel-Aziz said.

"What's more dangerous is that tribes have drawn on their foot soldiers among militias and the paramilitary forces" which has increased "the spread of weapons among civilians," he said.

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