Anti-Bashir protests intensify in Sudan

Heavy gunfire has continued outside the army headquarters in Sudan’s Khartoum to disperse thousands of protesters who have been camping in the area for three days now. They are calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.

The heavy gunfire accompanied by teargas towards the protesters seems to be an attempt from government security forces to break up the protests. People were seen running to hide immediately after the shooting and firing tear-gas began.

One of the protesters was quoted saying “tear-gas and live bullets were used” by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents against protesters. “It is pointless for Omar Bashir to continue using his thugs to get us off the streets as we are not going anywhere.” He also added that some army soldiers had provided sanctuary for protesters within their compound.

According to reports, at least two soldiers have so far died since the beginning of the protest outside the army headquarter on Saturday. There are also reports of soldiers intervening to protect protesters from NISS agents, a pro-Bashir security force who have been trying to break up the crowds.

President Omar al-Bashir has called for talks to end the crisis amidst international calls urging his government to stop using force against civilians.

The report given by the country’s Interior Minister on Monday indicated that so far seven protesters have been killed and fifteen injured whereas 42 soldiers from the security forces had been injured and about 2,500 protesters have been arrested.

Cause of the protest

The protest in Sudan started last year in December initially sparked by a rise in the cost of living but they eventually turned against President Bashir who has been in power since 1989 calling on him to resign.

The protests have been increasingly gaining momentum since they began in December last year with the crowds moving to gather outside the headquarters of the army in the capital Khartoum over the weekend.

The protesters are understood to be demanding for the immediate resignation of president Bashir while urging the army to withdraw their support for the government. The representatives of the protesters say that they want talks with the army concerning the formation of a transitional government.

One of the senior members among the protesters, Mr. Omar el-Dier was quoted by AFP news agency saying that the group was seeking a path “that represents the wish of the revolution”.

This Monday marked the third consecutive night of the sit-in at the headquarters of the army despite all the efforts from the security forces to disperse the protesters.
The government’s action of responding to the crisis with a heavy hand has been criticized by rights groups internationally.

Division in security forces?

The video released on Monday showed army soldiers trying to protect the protesters as they fired at an unclear target while civilians taking cover behind them. The protesters said that the soldiers were protecting them from gunfire from the NISS agents and others added that the firing from the military were warning shots to chase the agents off.

However, Sudan’s Information Minister Hassan Ismail has dismissed the reports of division in the army saying, “The security apparatus are coherent together and working with positive energy and in harmony”.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called upon all parties to “exercise utmost restraint and avoid violence”.

According to government officials, 38 people have died since the protests broke out in December although the Human Rights Watch insists that deaths have surpassed that number.

Controversy around the president

Since he came to power in 1989, Mr. Bashir’s rule has been criticized for abusing human rights. The president is subject to the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant over allegations of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Sudan is also still under sanctions imposed by the US more than 20 years ago over accusations of sponsoring terror groups.

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