The deadly clash in Sudan proves that the military is not ready to be in the shadows

Hundreds have been injured and over 60 people killed in the deadliest attack since Sudan began its sit-in protest in the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

Since April 6, before the former president, Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after ruling the country for 30 years, Sudanese have been protesting in front of the military headquarters. They even organised a sit-in and was assisted by medical practitioners and cooks.

So far, the protests had been peaceful until, the forces attempted to remove the protesters from their base on Monday, June 3. This is not the first of such attempts. On April 15, the forces attempted to disperse the sit-in but the protesters moved to block their efforts by joining hands and forming a ring around the sit-in area. The troops had gathered on three sides with tractors in preparation to remove the stone and metal barricades but the organizers of the protests, Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), urged supporters to foil any attempt to disperse the sit-in and after various attempts, the troops let go to avoid a confrontation.

Sadly, this time the protesters were unlucky. Security services moved into the main protest site early on Monday. In a televised statement, the military council said the operation had targeted “trouble makers and petty criminals” and that they were dedicated to protecting civilians.

The forces shot and killed at least 60 civilians, committed multiple sexual assaults, beat up medical staff and volunteers at clinics, looted and destroyed property in hospitals, threatened doctors and medical workers with reprisals if they provided care to the wounded.

Prior to now, the protesters were negotiating with the ten-member Transitional Military Council (TMC) and both parties reached an agreement for a three-year transition to civilian rule, agreeing that two bodies— a sovereign council and a 300-member legislature, dominated by the opposition grouping— will be formed to govern Sudan until the country goes to polls. Unfortunately, violence has endangered negotiations.

The TMC had suspended negations after the first botched attempt at dispersing the crowds. However, on Tuesday the council announced that the negotiations with protesters were over, all previous agreements were cancelled, and elections would be held within nine months.

Unhappy with this announcement, demonstrators argued that a longer period was needed to guarantee fair elections and dismantle the political network associated with the former government.

Hours before the attack, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which has led the anti-government protests since December 2018, issued a statement urging more people to join the sit-in. The association also called on medics to prepare for an emergency. Some who answered the call marched to the sit-in calling on protesters to prepare to die. “It’s either you or the nation. Prepare your Kafan”, they chanted, referring to the white sheet used in Muslim burial rites. The attack was described as a “massacre” by protesters.

Even Sudanese opposition leader, Yasir Arman, who returned to the country after years in exile, was arrested in Khartoum today. The deputy leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North under the leadership of Malik Agar (SPLM-N Agar), returned to Khartoum weeks after President Omar al-Bashir was ousted.

Last week, Arman said he received six letters; five sent by the deputy head of the military council and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamed Hamdan Hemeti, and one by the chairman of the junta, Abdel Fattah al Burhan, demanding him to leave Sudan.

Given that he was still in the country, Arman was arrested. Presently, the reason for his arrest is still unclear.