Sudan protesters chant ‘civilian rule’ as troops deploy

Hundreds of Sudanese took to the streets of the capital Sunday for a mass protest against the country’s ruling generals, amid international calls for restraint to prevent a new crackdown on demonstrators.
The planned “million-man” march is seen as a test for protest organisers whose movement has been hit by a deadly June 3 raid on a Khartoum sit-in and a subsequent internet blackout that has curbed their ability to mobilise support.
Dozens of demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded when armed men in military fatigues stormed the sit-in outside army headquarters, shooting and beating protesters who had camped there since April 6.
The new protest comes at a time when Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) are jointly mediating between the protesters and generals.
The European Union, several Western nations and rights groups have called on the generals to avoid any violence.
Hundreds of men and women, flashing victory signs and carrying Sudanese flags, flooded the streets of Al-Sahafa neighbourhood of Khartoum, chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule,” an AFP correspondent reported.
“We are here for the martyrs of the (June 3) sit-in. We want a civilian state that guarantees our freedom. We want to get rid of military dictatorship,” said protester Zeinab, 23.
Hundreds more took to the streets of Jabra neighbourhood, with many chanting revolutionary slogans, witnesses said, and rallies were under way in other districts.
Protests were also launched in the cities of Al-Obied, Madani and Khasma el-Girba, witnesses said.
Earlier the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) deployed in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns in several Khartoum squares and many shops were shut, an AFP correspondent said.
RSF chief General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo warned he would not tolerate any “vandalism” at the protests.
“There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don’t want problems,” Dagalo, who is also the ruling military council’s deputy chief, said Saturday.
In the run-up to the protest — the first since the crackdown — many Sudanese said they fear new violence.
“I expect large numbers… and it’s very possible that security forces will use force,” said Mustafa, 25, who gave only his first name for security reasons, adding he planned to participate.–DT

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