By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM -Huge crowds of people marched in different parts of the Sudanese capital and other cities on Thursday in demonstrations to reject military rule as the crisis in the country’s troubled transition from authoritarian rule deepened.
The military has shared power with civilians in a transitional authority since the removal of President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 in a popular uprising after three decades in power.
A coalition of rebel groups and political parties have aligned themselves with the military, which has accused the civilian parties of mismanagement and monopolising power, and are seeking to dissolve the cabinet.
Civilian leaders say this would amount to a coup and say the military aims to install a government it can control.
Thursday’s protest took place on the anniversary of the 1964 October Revolution and was preceded by days of smaller neighbourhood 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 to prevent them from crossing a bridge leading to central Khartoum, witnesses told Reuters.
Plumes of smoke could be seen across the city as protesters burned tires and waved Sudanese flags.
Many chants were critical of 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 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 Sovereign Council member Siddig Tawer, one of several civilian officials who endorsed the protests.
Neighbourhood resistance committees said in a statement they were protesting 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.
Military-allied 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 since Saturday.
Protest routes were planned in different areas away from the downtown area to avoid confrontation with the pro-military 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 said in a tweet.