By Al Nur al-Zaki
Khartoum, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Tuesday in Sudan’s biggest cities to express their economic grievances and demand justice for the killings of protesters following the April 2019 ouster of longtime head of state Omar al-Bashir.
The pro-democracy rallies were organized by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, an opposition-allied labor federation that backed the protests that brought an end to al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Around 350,000 people took part in Tuesday’s rallies, the spokesperson for that association, Hassan Farouk, told Omdurman Radio.
The protesters denounced the current economic situation, which has not improved nearly a year after a power-sharing agreement was struck between the ruling military council that had overthrown al-Bashir and a civilian opposition alliance.
Under that arrangement, a three-year transition process was launched aimed at creating a new institutional structure and paving the way for new elections and civilian rule.
In the capital, Khartoum, the protesters shouted slogans such as “Execution for the killers of the revolutionaries,” “No forgiveness” and “Free revolutionaries continue the journey.”
A particularly large police deployment was observed near the main bridges that link Khartoum with the nearby cities of Khartoum North and Omdurman, where the security forces used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters trying to cross one of the viaducts.
The protesters demanded that those responsible for killing demonstrators last year – particularly during the June 3, 2019, dismantling of a sit-in protest outside the army’s headquarters in Khartoum – be brought to justice.
The violent dispersal of the demonstrators by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, an action now under investigation by a government-appointed independent committee, left 87 dead, according to a controversy-marred investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. The demonstrators, for their part, put the death toll from the June 3 attack at 128.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association also is demanding an overhaul of the economic policy that has been in place dating back to al-Bashir’s reign, considering that the country’s gross domestic product contracted by 2.5 percent last year and is expected to shrink by 8 percent in 2020 (due in large part to a coronavirus-triggered lockdown).
Sudan’s inflation rate stands at over 100 percent, while its external debt is equivalent to about 190 percent of GDP.
In a bid to tackle the crisis, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government has unveiled an economic plan that is based on an agreement reached last week with the International Monetary Fund and aimed at narrowing the northeastern African country’s gaping macroeconomic imbalances.
Ibrahim al-Tayib, a 27-year-old unemployed university student, said the Sudanese people should resume the uprising that led to the fall of al-Bashir because “not all of the objectives were achieved.”
Peace has remained elusive as the population awaits an imminent agreement between the transitional government and the armed opposition, the young man told Efe.
He added that the performance of the current prime minister – Hamdok, appointed by the civilian-military Sovereignty Council of Sudan – has been unconvincing, “especially on the economic front.”
“The conditions are worse than they were during the era of the ousted president, Omar al-Bashir,” Samahir Abdel Rahman, a housewife, told Efe.
“Hamdok’s government has failed, so we’ve come out to warn him that the revolution has not achieved its objectives and we can overthrow Hamdok just like we did al-Bashir.”
Isam Taha, 31, is particularly concerned that more than 14 months after the toppling of the regime of al-Bashir, who was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced last December to two years in a social reform facility for older prisoners, many members of his regime are still being tried and currently living in a “comfortable prison.”
He also lamented that those responsible for the deaths of Sudanese “revolutionaries” remain free and that the economic crisis is growing steadily worse.