By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – A campaign of civil disobedience to demand civilian rule left the streets of Sudan’s capital Khartoum largely deserted as the working week began on Sunday, while a 20-year-old man was shot dead in Omdurman, witnesses and opposition medics said.
Opposition and protest groups had called for workers to stay at home after security forces stormed a protest camp on Monday, killing dozens and dealing a blow to hopes of a peaceful transition after the overthrow of president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April.
Transitional Military Council (TMC) spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi said the council was willing to listen to the opposition’s demands and restart negotiations, which it halted after the attack on the camp.
After the raid, TMC head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan scrapped all agreements with the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), an opposition alliance, and called for elections within nine months. The opposition rejected the plans.
The raid came after weeks of wrangling between the TMC, which took over from Bashir, and the DFCF over who should steer a transition leading to elections.
Protesters did take to the streets in several neighbourhoods of Khartoum on Sunday amid heavy security. Security forces fired shots into the air and used tear gas to disperse protesters in Khartoum North, witnesses said.
Elsewhere in the capital, few pedestrians or vehicles could be seen. Public transport was barely functioning and most commercial banks, private companies and markets were shut, though some state banks and public utility offices were open.
“We will not go back to work until the (opposition Sudanese Professionals’) Association announces the end of the strike,” said Ahmad al-Noor, a 46-year-old employee at a private food company. “Sudan must be governed by a civilian government.”
The SPA, which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests, is part of the DFCF.
At Khartoum airport, where few flights were operating, travellers crowded the departure hall. Most travel agencies were closed because of an internet outage, and ticket prices soared.
However, the state news agency SUNA said the airport was “operating normally” and reported “complete attendance of employees in different airport units”.
Kabbashi told Sky News Arabia that “life has not been affected much by the disobedience declared today”.
But later on Sunday, the head of the TMC security committee told SUNA that the DFCF was responsible for “unfortunate events” that he said had been caused by “the irrational practices of the so-called neighbourhood resistance committees, which use children and force them to close roads and erect barricades in flagrant violation of the law”.
He said “organised groups paid by certain parties” had attacked police buildings and checkpoints, seeking to “obtain weapons and transfer their battles against the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces into the capital and the big cities”.
He said the TMC would reinforce security to “restore normal life”, facilitate movement and guard strategic facilities.
In Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, 20-year-old Ayman Osama died after being shot in the chest at a road barricade, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on social media, accusing a paramilitary force of killing him. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had no immediate comment.
Witnesses say the RSF led last Monday’s raid. Its troops have been heavily deployed in Khartoum, some with machine guns mounted on their pickup trucks.
The RSF grew out of the Arab Janjaweed militias accused of committing atrocities in Darfur during a civil war that began in 2003. Bashir’s government denied allegations that the militias had burned villages and raped and executed civilians.
State television reported that a senior commander of the RSF, whose leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo is deputy head of the TMC, had been replaced.
Opposition medics put the death toll at 118 in the storming of the camp outside Khartoum’s Defence Ministry and subsequent security crackdown. The government has put the death toll at 61, including three members of the security services.
Also on Sunday, banking expert Mohamed Ahmed Bushra said he had turned down an offer from the TMC to become deputy governor of the central bank.
He told Reuters that current conditions and the failure to form a transitional civilian government made it difficult for the central bank to implement measures to address Sudan’s economic crisis.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; writing by Yousef Saba and Mahmoud Mourad; editing by Catherine Evans and Kevin Liffey)