Sudan’s Security Forces Kill Protesters as U.S. Diplomats’ Visit Nears

NAIROBI, Kenya — Sudanese security forces killed seven people and injured at least 100 others on Monday, a doctors’ group said, the latest bloody protest to shake the country ahead of a visit by senior American diplomats seeking to support the revival of Sudan’s faltering transition to democracy.

Those killed were between the ages of 19 and 40 and were shot in the pelvis or chest, according a pro-democracy group, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors. The northeast Africa nation has faced widespread protests since a military coup on Oct. 25. The doctors’ group said in a statement on Facebook that the death toll among civilians since the coup had grown to 71.

The protesters who were killed were among thousands who took to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and other major cities on Monday, condemning the October coup and demanding a return to civilian rule. But protesters, particularly those who marched toward the presidential palace in Khartoum, were met with tear gas, live bullets and sound bombs, the doctors’ group said.

To protest killings on Monday, the doctors’ group said it would withdraw from hospitals associated with the military, police and other security agencies.

The Forces of Freedom and Change, the civilian pro-democracy coalition that once shared power with the military, also called for a two-day civil disobedience campaign beginning on Tuesday.

The protests came weeks after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned, leaving the military fully in control and muddling regional and international efforts to facilitate a civilian-military power-sharing deal that could pave the way for elections and democratic rule.

Sudan’s prime minister resigned earlier this month, leaving the military fully in control.Credit…Marwan Ali/Associated Press

On Jan. 8, the United Nations began talks with various political parties, civil society groups and the military to end the current political standoff.

One of Africa’s largest countries, Sudan is also facing a volley of challenges, including rising inflation, food insecurity, the coronavirus pandemic and fresh violence between farmers and herders in the restive western region of Darfur.

The Sovereignty Council, the country’s ruling body, headed by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said in a Facebook post on Monday that it was “establishing a special force to combat terrorism to confront potential threats.”

Analysts say the violence seen on on Monday shows that the military doesn’t care about the pressure the U.S. and other international allies are placing on them.Credit…Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

Officials with the United States, the European Union and the U.N. Human Rights Office condemned the crackdown on Tuesday and called on the military to cease using force against protesters.

Protests over the coup have continued even after a Nov. 21 deal with the military that put Mr. Hamdok, who was held prisoner immediately after the coup, back in office, and after Mr. Hamdok then quit on Jan. 2. The prime minister said then that the country needed to engage in fresh dialogue that would help it chart a course to democracy after decades of military rule.

“I tried as much as I could to avoid our country from sliding into disaster,” Mr. Hamdok said at the time. “But despite my efforts to achieve the desired and necessary consensus to give citizens security, peace, justice and to stop bloodshed, that did not happen.”

His resignation left Sudan at a crossroads, with a military intent on consolidating power, according to analysts, and organized resistance committees determined to challenge its rule.

In recent days, security forces have entered hospitals to arrest wounded protesters, and they have beaten and detained journalists.Credit…Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

To bolster the U.N. talks that began earlier this month, the American assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Molly Phee, and the newly appointed special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, are expected in Khartoum this week. The American diplomats are expected to meet pro-democracy activists and the military, and to offer support for the Sudanese people’s calls for a return to civilian rule.

Ned Price, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said on Monday that the two leaders “will reiterate our call for security forces to end violence and respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

But analysts say the crackdown on Monday shows that the military doesn’t care about the pressure the United States and other international allies are placing on them. And with the killing of protesters, the notion that the military will ensure stability in the long term is being undermined daily, said Kholood Khair, managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners, a policy think tank in Khartoum.

In recent days, security forces have entered hospitals to arrest wounded protesters, beaten and detained journalists and revoked the license of Al Jazeera Mubasher, a channel affiliated with the Qatar-based news network.

Officials across the globe condemned the violence against demonstrators on Monday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The generals are trolling Molly Phee,” Ms. Khair said. “They effectively feel they have some kind of carte blanche to continue doing what they are doing,” she said, adding, “There’s no end in sight for how much repression they can re-enact.”

The latest protests come as parts of Sudan face growing insecurity, with thousands of people displaced because of increased violence in the Darfur and Kordofan regions, according to the United Nations.

Last month, the World Food Program suspended operations in North Darfur after its warehouses were attacked — a move the agency says could affect up to 2 million people. After concluding a field trip to the area this week, U.N. officials said on Tuesday that those acts constituted “a direct attack on the most vulnerable people” in Sudan.

“Any attacks of this nature must be swiftly investigated and should never happen again,” Axel Bisschop, the acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said in a statement.

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