Hundreds of pro-military Sudanese protesters have rallied for a second day in Khartoum, in an escalation of what the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, called the “worst and most dangerous crisis” of the country’s precarious transition.
The protesters are demanding the dissolution of Sudan’s post-dictatorship interim government, saying it has failed them politically and economically.
“The sit-in continues, we will not leave until the government is dismissed,” said Ali Askouri, one of the organisers. “We have officially asked the Sovereign Council [the military-civilian body that oversees the transition] not to interact with this government any more.”
Sudanese politics is reeling from divisions among the factions steering the transition from three decades of iron-fisted rule by Omar al-Bashir. Bashir was ousted by the army in April 2019 in the face of mass protests driven by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a civilian alliance that became a key plank of the transition.
The latest demonstrations, left undisturbed by security forces, have been organised by a splinter faction of the FFC. Critics allege that these protests are being driven by members of the military and security forces, and involve counter-revolutionary sympathisers with the former regime.
The protesters have converged on the presidential palace where the transitional authorities are based, shouting “One army, one people” and demanding a military government.
Sudan has undergone dramatic changes since the removal of Bashir, who is wanted by the international criminal court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, where a conflict that began in 2003 ucciso 300,000 persone.
The US removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in December 2020, eliminating a major hurdle to much-needed aid and investment.
But domestic support for the transitional government has waned in recent months amid a tough package of IMF-backed economic reforms including the slashing of fuel subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound.
Su 21 September the government said it had thwarted a coup attempt that it blamed on military officers and civilians linked to Bashir’s regime.
On Friday, Hamdok said the transition was facing its “worst and most dangerous” crisis.
On Saturday the finance minister, Jibril Ibrahim, addressed the crowd demanding the resignation of the government.
The mainstream faction of the FFC has said the crisis “is engineered by some parties to overthrow the revolutionary forces … paving the way for the return of remnants of the previous regime”.
Jaafar Hassan, a spokesperson for the FFC, called the pro-military sit-in “an episode in the scenario of a coup d’etat”. He said its aim was “to block the road to democracy because the participants in this sit-in are supporters of the former regime and foreign parties whose interests have been affected by the revolution”.
The demonstration heightens tensions before a rival rally planned for Thursday by the opposite side, to demand a full transfer of power to civilians. Hassan said the FFC organisers aim for “a demonstration of 1 million people … to show the world the position of the Sudanese people”.