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Sudanese protesters dig in at sit-in site during Muslim fasting month

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Sudanese protesters dig in at sit-in site during Muslim fasting month
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By Nadine Awadalla

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – For Kwanja Edward, stirring a massive pot of porridge on a roadside in central Khartoum to feed protesters camping outside Sudan’s Defence Ministry is the best place to be during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Originally from South Sudan, the middle-aged nurse, who now lives in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on the opposite side of the Nile river, said she had made her way to the capital because she wanted to do “what is best” for Sudan.

“The sit-in has gotten better in Ramadan, (feeding the people) counts as a good deed for us, and fighting for peace and freedom is good for them,” Edward said.

Like the many thousands who converged on the ministry on April 6, eventually forcing veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir to resign, Edward has defied searing heat of up to 47 degrees (117 Fahrenheit) as she and other protesters push the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand power to civilians.

Five days into Ramadan, most of the protesters are staying put. They come together at sunset to break their dawn-to-dusk fast, tucking into meals cooked by volunteers like Edward made from made from vegetables, grains and various groceries donated by wealthy Sudanese.

“People are at the sit-in from all across the country, from all of the states and all of the regions,” Hamouda Ali, 44, said shortly after breaking his fast.

“They’re here all day and struggling under the direct heat of the sun. There is no air conditioning, no (inside) halls. So there is no one here except people with a cause, people with something to defend,” he added.

The sit-in occupies the main avenue outside the Defence Ministry, but also spills into neighbouring side streets and roads where organisers have set up kitchens and storage areas to prepare food for the hungry crowd.

Demonstrators say the food is largely acquired through donations and people bringing whatever they can afford when they come to the sit-in. Organisers said that several companies also provide bread, water and other basic items.

Before the evening prayer call, dozens of young volunteers lay out green mats and plates of fruit, dates and various stews as well as cups of juice and water.

Afterwards, as the mats are being rolled away, people gather and demonstrations take shape down the avenue with slogans such as “freedom, peace and justice,” and “revolution is the people’s choice” ringing out.

“Before Ramadan people were saying that the numbers (of protesters) would go down because of the fasting,” said Omar Hamza, one of the protesters.

“But we are trying to prove to the TMC that the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Declaration for Freedom and Change Forces are just as strong and that we back them until our demands are met,” he added, referring to citizens’ groups spearheading the pro-democracy movement in Sudan.

(Reporting by Nadine Awadalla and EL Tayib Saddig; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich)

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