Sunday 25 August 2019

Sudan protesters reject military talks offer as ’40 bodies’ pulled from the Nile

It raises the death toll to 100 since the violent dispersal of a sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum on Monday.

Protesters in Khartoum (AP Photos/Salih Basheer, File)
Protesters in Khartoum (AP Photos/Salih Basheer, File)

By Bassam Hatoum and Samy Magdy, Associated Press

Organisers of pro-democracy protests in Sudan say 40 bodies have been retrieved from the Nile River in the capital Khartoum.

The Sudan Doctors’ Committee said the bodies were pulled out on Tuesday, and were taken by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to an unknown location.

It raises the death toll to 100 since the violent dispersal of a sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum on Monday.

Protest organisers have dismissed a call by ruling generals to resume talks, saying the military is “not serious” about negotiating with protesters while killing them at the same time.

Mohammed Yousef al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association which is leading the demonstrations, said the protesters “totally reject” the call from General Abdel-Fattah Burhan for the resumption of talks.

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General Abdel-Fattah Burhan (Sudan TV/AP)

Mr al-Mustafa said: “This call is not serious. Burhan and those under him have killed the Sudanese and are still doing it. Their vehicles patrol the streets, firing at people.

“We will continue in our protests, resistance, strike and total civil disobedience.”

Sudan’s military council had earlier said the ruling generals were ready to resume negotiations, after three days of a violent crackdown on protesters that left 60 dead across the country.

Gen Burhan said there would be “no restrictions” in talks with the leaders behind months-long street protests, adding that those responsible for the violent break-up of the sit-in in the capital Khartoum would be held accountable.

The mounting casualties are the latest challenge to the protest movement, which now aims to show it can keep up pressure in the streets after its central rallying point — the weeks-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum — was wiped out on Monday.

In April, the movement forced the military to remove Sudan’s long-time leader Omar al-Bashir. It then kept its sit-in going, demanding that the generals who took power hand authority to civilians.

The Sudan Doctors Committee said at least 326 people had been wounded in clashes in the past two days, and feared the final death toll would be much higher.

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A main street in the Sudanese capital Khartoum (AP)

On Monday, members of the Rapid Support Forces, which human rights groups say carried out rapes, torture and killings of civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region, and other troops waded into the protest camp outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum, opening fire and burning down tents.

Other troops crushed two smaller sit-ins organised by the protesters elsewhere.

After Mr al-Bashir’s removal, the military and protest leaders negotiated over the make-up of a transitional council meant to run the country for three years before elections.

Protesters demand that civilians dominate the council, but the generals resisted.

The crackdown put an end to the relative peace that surrounded the talks and signalled the military had lost patience with activists’ demands, putting the two sides on the path of a potentially longer confrontation with increasing violence.

Gen Burhan’s latest remarks marked a significant change from his televised speech early on Tuesday, when he blamed protest leaders for the volatile situation, accusing them of drawing out negotiations and trying to exclude some “political and security forces” from taking part in any transitional government.

He also announced the military would unilaterally form an interim government and hold elections sooner, within seven to nine months, under international supervision, and said any agreements reached earlier in the negotiations with the demonstrators were cancelled.

Protesters rejected the move because it would put the military in charge of running the election.

PA Media

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