Thousands demonstrate to demand faster democratic transition in Sudan

Sudan demonstrations1
Civilians gather as members of Sudanese pro-democracy protest on the anniversary of a major anti-military protest, as groups loyal to toppled leader Omar al-Bashir plan rival demonstrations in Khartoum, Sudan.

Tens of thousands demonstrated on Tuesday in Sudanese cities despite a coronavirus lockdown to demand greater civilian rule in the transition towards democracy after the ouster of veteran strongman Omar al-Bashir last year.

Waving Sudanese flags, protesters gathered in Khartoum and its twin cities Khartoum North and Omdurman after the government closed roads and bridges leading to the centre of the capital.

Similar protests took also place in Kassala in eastern Sudan and in the restive region of Darfur. They chanted “freedom, peace and justice”, the slogan of the anti-Bashir movement. Some protesters blocked streets with burning tyres.

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Premier Abdalla Hamdok, a technocrat, governs the country in awkward tandem with the long dominant military that helped remove Bashir after mass protests against his 30-year autocracy.

An opposition coalition agreed to joint governance with the military in a two-year transition towards free elections but key parts of the deal have not been implemented, such as appointing civilian state governors and establishing a parliament.

Hamdok’s government has been preoccupied with a worsening economic crisis that has seen a plunge in Sudan’s pound currency diving and annual inflation topping 100%.

Last week, foreign donor nations pledged $1.8 billion at a conference hosted by Germany to help Sudan overcome the economic crisis hampering its transition. But the pledges were well below the $8 billion in aid Hamdok has said is needed.

The crisis has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has diverted the resources of many donors.

Hamdok sought to appease disgruntled citizens with a speech Monday night in which he said he would announce major decisions on the way forward within two weeks.

He gave no details, but added: “The transitional government …(is) aiming to achieve the highest levels of consensus and popular approval.”

Hamdok is also pursuing peace talks with rebel groups across the sprawling country but no deal is in sight.

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