CAIRO: Pro-military protesters briefly blocked major roads and bridges in the Sudanese capital on Sunday, amid mounting tensions between the generals and the pro-democracy movement that fueled the uprising against autocratic ex-president Omar Al- Bashir.
The move came a day after the United States’ special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, met with military and civilian leaders in Khartoum to find a compromise on the dispute.
Deteriorating military-civilian ties in the ruling government threaten Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy since the military ousting Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019 after nearly three decades of autocratic regime.
The current crisis surfaced with an attempted coup last month. Officials blamed Al-Bashir loyalists for the move. But the generals lashed out at the civilian side of the government, accusing politicians of seeking government positions rather than helping alleviate the economic suffering of the population.
General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling Sovereign Council, said the dissolution of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok’s government could resolve the current political crisis. This suggestion was rejected by hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country on Thursday.
These accusations by the generals, echoed by Burhan and his deputy, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the formidable paramilitary rapid support forces, raised civilians’ fears that the army could possibly hijack the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Pro-military protesters gathered in Khartoum earlier this month, echoing Burhan’s demands. Protesters have since staged a sit-in outside the capital’s presidential palace. Last week, they attempted to storm the Cabinet seat as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with his Cabinet. The security forces dispersed them with tear gas.
On Saturday, dozens of pro-military protesters stormed the reception area of ââthe country’s public news agency headquarters and set tires on fire outside the agency’s offices. This delayed a press conference for pro-democracy activists, according to Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, director of the SUNA news agency.
In an escalation on Sunday, pro-military protesters cut major roads and bridges, including the Mec Nimr Bridge, which connects downtown Khartoum with other areas of the capital, according to activist and rights defender Tahani. Abbas. This decision caused congestion in the streets on Sunday morning, the first working day of the week, in particular Nile Street, a main artery in Khartoum.
“What is happening … is an official coup sponsored by Burhan,” she said. Abbas shared photos of protesters blocking a bridge with passenger buses and turned back vehicles.
Later that day, security forces dispersed protesters using tear gas to open blocked roads. A video on social media reportedly showed protesters fleeing the bridge and down Rue du Nil.
Feltman, the American envoy, met in Khartoum with Buhan, Dagalo and Hamdok and “underlined American support for a civil democratic transition in accordance with the wishes expressed by the Sudanese people,” said the American embassy in Khartoum.
He urged Sudanese leaders “to commit to working together to implement the constitutional declaration and the Juba Peace Agreement” between the government and an alliance of rebel groups, the embassy said.
The tensions come weeks before a planned rotation of the ruling Sovereign Council leadership from military to civilians, according to the constitutional declaration that established the joint government in August 2019.