On Thursday, large crowds marched in numerous sections of Sudan’s capital and other cities in protest of the country’s troublesome transition from authoritarian leadership, as the crisis in the country’s troubled transition from authoritarian rule escalated.
Since President Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a popular revolt in 2019 after three decades in office, the military has shared power with civilian parties in a transitional government.
A coalition of rebel organizations and political parties has allied with the military, accusing civilian parties of mismanagement and power monopolization, and is attempting to remove the cabinet.
Civilian leaders say that this would amount to a coup and that the military aims to install a government it can control.
Thursday’s protest, which began at midday and continued after sundown, took place on the anniversary of the 1964 October Revolution that overthrew a military government and led to a period of parliamentary democracy.
It was preceded by days of smaller neighborhood protests.
Reuters journalists estimated the number of participants to be in the hundreds of thousands, making it the biggest demonstration of the transition.
In the city of Omdurman, protesters were met with heavy tear gas, eyewitnesses said. Six people were injured, said Mortada Alkanzi, deputy general manager of Omdurman Hospital.
Plumes of smoke could be seen across the city as protesters burned tires and waved Sudanese flags.
Many chants were critical of the head of the ruling Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, accusing him of being loyal to Bashir. Some demanded he hand over leadership to civilians and others demanded his removal.
“This country is ours, and our government is civilian,” one chant said.
Several government ministers and officials were seen marching in different parts of Khartoum.
“October 21 is a lesson for any tyrants, loyalists, or opportunists deluded into thinking they can turn back the hands of time,” wrote civilian Sovereign Council member Siddig Tawer.
Neighborhood resistance committees said in a statement they were protesting against the entire power-sharing agreement and demanded sole civilian rule.
Many businesses in central Khartoum were closed in anticipation of the protest and there was an extensive police presence.
The military says it is committed to the transition to democracy and elections at the end of 2023.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who leads the cabinet under a military-civilian power-sharing agreement, remains popular despite an economic crisis. He has said he is speaking to all sides in the crisis in order to find a solution.
In a statement Thursday evening, he said he saluted the protesters, saying “the crowds have made their voices heard and delivered their message that there is no going back from the goals of the revolution.”
Military-aligned groups led by former rebel leaders and current government officials Minni Minnawi and Jibril Ibrahim have held a sit-in in front of the Presidential Palace in downtown Khartoum since Saturday.
Protest routes were planned in other areas of the city to avoid a confrontation with the sit-in.
“We encourage demonstrators to be peaceful and remind them of the strong U.S. support for Sudan’s democratic transition,” the U.S. Embassy wrote on Twitter.