Khartoum, Sudan – Security forces have cracked down in recent days to prevent protesters from taking part in a large march on Tuesday, activists and analysts say.
Protesters plan to demand full civilian rule a year after a military coup disrupted Sudan’s transition to democracy and plunged the country into an economic crisis.
Many activists are bracing for police brutality, which has been criticized since the death of a young man, Mudasser Kamal, in custody on October 11.
Three days after his arrest, the police issued a statement saying Kamal died in custody due to stomach pains, but Kamal’s family and human rights lawyers say his body shows signs of torture. Lawyers and activists are now calling for an independent investigation and credible autopsy.
“The junta relies on this kind of violence to stay in power,” said Sammer Hamza, a 25-year-old member of the pro-democracy movement.
“This time the crime was committed by the police, but armed groups and the military have done the same in the past,” Hamza said.
Since Kamal’s death, ruling generals have cracked down on demonstrations and activists while fueling conflict in the country’s marginalized peripheries.
The violence has hardened the attitude of members of the pro-democracy movement, who promise to appear in large numbers on Tuesday.
Raids and Arrests
The authorities have targeted activists and artists affiliated with the pro-democracy street movement. The latest incident took place on Thursday when government forces stormed an art and technology space called Civil-Lab in Khartoum, the capital. The officers vandalized an art exhibit, confiscated paintings and arrested nine people.
While the detainees were released on bail that night, they were charged with advocating violence against authorities, disrupting public order and endangering public safety. The theme of the art exhibition was to draw attention to the threat that the coup authorities pose to protesters.
“The reason they arrested us is because they want to scare young people, but people aren’t afraid of them,” said Alma al-Deen, a 26-year-old financial coordinator at Civic-Lab who was dragged into the raid. .
The incident took place as US-led talks were held Reportedly between a broad coalition of political parties known as the Forces for Freedom and Change and the military rulers. In the eyes of Duaa Tarig, Civic-Lab’s art curator and an active member of the pro-democracy movement, the coup authorities clearly feared art that questioned the legitimacy of high-level negotiations.
Tarig said the main installation at the exhibit was called “The Negotiation Room,” reflecting the view most protesters hold toward talks aimed at restoring military-civilian partnership rather than pursuing full civilian rule. , justice and accountability – core demands of the pro-democracy movement.
“[In the room]”We had a portrait of a dictator in a military uniform covered in blood, and his badge read ‘murderer,'” Tarig told Al Jazeera. “The [authorities] confiscated the portrait but the idea was that if you stood in front of the portrait you would only see blood [the walls] around him.”
Armed groups with ties to the military are also fueling violence in the country’s neglected peripheries.
At least 220 people have died and thousands have been displaced in the state of Blue Nile in what UN agencies and diplomats describe as “community violence” – a term critics say is obscuring the political drivers of the conflict.
Kholood Khair, co-founder of the think tank Confluence Advisory, said violence in the region has been exacerbated by armed groups that signed the Juba peace accord in October 2020 to end conflict in rural areas.
The signatories to that agreement supported the military coup a year later.
“At its core, there is a direct militarization of the peripheries as a result of the Juba peace accord,” Khair said, commenting on the crisis in the Blue Nile and other regions where violence has flared up in recent months.
Back in Khartoum were dozens of people injured during protests on Friday, according to the Sudanese Doctors Commission. Two days later, security forces fired and… murdered a young man, bringing the death toll from anti-coup protests to 118 since the military consolidated power last year.
Khair said she suspects that coup leaders, most notably military commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, are resorting to repression to influence the ongoing negotiations.
“I think Burhan is trying to strengthen his position of power,” she told Al Jazeera. “While offering all this rosy rhetoric about making concessions” [to the pro-democracy movement]he also shows that he has cards that he can play by attacking protesters or by making the situation worse in [Blue Nile].”
Despite the risks, protesters are preparing to march to the presidential palace on the anniversary of the coup to make their voices heard.
“All the people who have been arrested along with me have protested on the streets in the past,” Civic-Lab’s al-Deen said. “We’ll all be back on October 25.”