Mass protests on streets of Sudan with call for civilian rule

Internet blocked but activists spread word of protest with graffiti, megaphones and leaflets

People shout slogans as they march on the streets demanding the ruling military cede power to civilians at a demonstration in Khartoum. Photograph: Umit Bektas

Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets on Sunday to call for an immediate transition to civilian rule, in the biggest mass demonstrations since dozens were gunned down at the beginning of the month.

The “millions march” was organised across the country to mark 30 years since ousted President Omar al-Bashir came to power during a military coup.

Three hours into Sunday's protests, Sudanese doctors had already reported the first casualty, saying a demonstrator was killed after being shot in the chest in the town of Atbara, in Sudan's northeast. There were also reports of shooting and tear gas being used by security forces in capital, Khartoum.

On June 3rd, fighters from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) used violence to disperse a massive weeks-long sit-in by thousands of civilians in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. Activists said some bodies were subsequently thrown into the Nile.


More than 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured, according to Amnesty International. Doctors present said both women and men were also victims of sexual violence.

‘Sudanese revolution’

The internet in Sudan has been blocked since the crackdown, but activists still found ways to spread word of Sunday's protest, including with graffiti, announcing details through megaphones and by distributing leaflets.

Others, who found ways to get around the internet blockade, posted rallying messages online.

"The Sudanese revolution is proof that our language, culture and goals are the same: resistance, and we will win," wrote Ahmad Mahmoud, one of the protesters, on Facebook.

The attempt to cut communication between Sudanese people and the outside world failed, Mr Mahmoud added, as evidenced by the #blueforsudan campaign, which saw people all over the world change their social media profiles to blue in solidarity with Sudan’s protesters.

‘Bloody crackdown’

Last week, Amnesty International secretary general Kumi Naidoo called on Sudan's transitional authorities not to use violence against civilians again, and to uphold the Sudanese people's rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. "Since the bloody crackdown earlier this month, there has been an alarming regression on human rights," Mr Naidoo said. "This includes an ongoing internet shutdown, attacks on the media and the refusal to allow opposition groups to organise public forums, as well as the continued dispersal of peaceful protesters using unnecessary and excessive force. This clampdown clearly points to the return of the repressive days associated with al-Bashir . . .

“The rest of the world has seen very clearly the passion with which Sudanese people are campaigning for their human rights. The world is watching.”

On Saturday, Sudan’s ruling military council warned Sudanese citizens not to take part in the protests, saying the opposition would be responsible if anyone was killed. Al-Bashir was ousted in a military coup on April 11th, following months of protests, and is now facing trial on charges of “possessing foreign currency and acquiring suspicious and illicit wealth”. However, protesters argue his regime continues to control the country.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa