Sudan braces for ‘millions march’ as defiant protesters regroup

Across Sudan, defiant protesters are preparing to return to the streets on Sunday for what social media users are calling a “millions march”.

The protesters are demanding power be handed over to a civilian-led government and justice for all lives lost at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) during a recent crackdown in the wake of President’s Omar al-Bashir’s removal from power.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) on Twitter called on people to take to the streets on Sunday, saying “let’s be loud on the streets again, and let’s make the demonstrations on June 30th a prominent new page in the last chapter of the falling regime and its rigged council’s drama”. 

The rally will be the first mass demonstration since the assault on protesters at a sit-in at the military headquarters in Khartoum almost a month ago. 

Months of protests and the sit-in came to a deadly head on June 3, as Sudanese security forces violently dispersed the crowds outside the military headquarters in the capital.

More than 100 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), while a health ministry official cited a much lower toll of 61 victims. 

Protesters say the sit-in provided a safe space for people from all regions of Sudan to express themselves through different methods, including discussions, collective chants and art.

After what protesters are calling the “June 3rd massacre”, a sense of mourning and anger further fuelled their demands. 

Sudanese will protest on June 30, 30th anniversary of Bashair reign. His regime hasn’t fall & only replaced by bloodthirsty junta. #Watch_Sudan_on_June30th

Diaspora will protest on June29 to bring attention & raise awareness✌🏾#مليونيه30يونيو #BlueForSudan #IAmTheSudanRevolution pic.twitter.com/3mZFUxxJJa

— Uzaz🌾عُزاز (@3ozaz) June 26, 2019

Ahmed Hadra, a protester who was jailed when the demonstrations began in December 2018, says “people are expecting the security forces to respond with violence but there’s no longer any fear and they’re prepared to walk towards any fire”.

He says support from all generations is critical to the youth-led movement.

Ahmed H Adam, a researcher at SOAS’ School of Law, says Sunday’s demonstration will be “a milestone and a buildup to restoring the momentum of the revolution”. 

Sudan’s military rejects Ethiopia’s transition proposal

The date of the “millions march”, coincides with the 30th anniversary of the 1989 coup by al-Bashir, who was himself overthrown in a military coup in April.

“The current coup is the continuation of the same one that happened 30 years ago. These people are not different at all. Their policies, their practices, the way they deal with civilians is the same. Their abuse of human rights, denial of democratic transformation of the country – it’s no different at all. It’s just like al-Bashir is in action right now,” says Adam. 

Since the violent dispersal of the sit-in, the internet has been cut off, and restoring internet access is now among the top priorities for protesters. 

Social media has played a key role in planning previous protests.

Despite the lack of internet access, Afra Ali, a university student and protester in Khartoum tells Al Jazeera that “information about the protest is being spread through brochures handed out by the youth”. 

She says there are also murals and graffiti painted throughout the city encouraging people to participate in the “millions march”. 

June 30 protests

Protest leaders have called for the first mass rally since the June 3 crackdown [File: Seena Khalil/Al Jazeera] 

Global movement

The internet blackout led to the diaspora launching social media campaigns under hashtags such as #BlueForSudan and #IAmTheSudanRevolution to inform the international community on what is happening in their homeland. 

Sudan protesters accept Ethiopia plan for political transition

Protests are also planned in major cities such as Washington DC, London, Dublin, Kuala Lumpur and more, to stand in solidarity with protesters in Sudan. 

Ehab Eltayeb, an activist and organiser based in Houston, Texas says, “the protests outside of Sudan serve three main purposes; raising awareness, lobbying and releasing negative energy in a productive form”. 

He also tells Al Jazeera “not being in Sudan at times like this make the youth of the diaspora feel helpless, protests outside of Sudan gives them hope and a feeling of belonging and as they fight a different fight on the outside; this is their revolution too”.

What will happen next?

After negotiations between the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), a coalition of protest leaders, and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) over the formation of a transitional government reached deadlock, Ethiopia intervened to mediate.

The TMC rejected Ethiopia’s effort to solve the crisis, saying Ethiopia needed to unify its proposal with an earlier option offered by the African Union (AU).

Protesters are condemning Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for backing the TMC. Adam says international powers could potentially influence the ruling generals. 

“If it is harmonised, sustained and focused, I think foreign pressure from the main regional powers which are sponsoring right now and supporting the TMC, I think it could work.”

Protesters, however, say no matter the consequence, they will continue to fight for democracy.

Discussing the potential outcomes, Adam says there are only two scenarios: “There will either be chaos and total war or a clear democratic transformation for the country because Sudandse will never accept to be ruled by another dictatorship.”

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