Sudan crisis: Dozens of bodies pulled from Nile, opposition says


Sudanese security forces are deployed around Khartoum's army headquarters. Photo: 3 June 2019Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSecurity forces, seen here on Monday, moved against protesters after a long stand-off

Dozens of bodies have been recovered from the River Nile in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, following a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, opposition activists say.

Doctors linked to the opposition say the 40 bodies are among 100 people believed killed since security forces attacked a protest camp on Monday.

Members of a feared paramilitary group are reported to be attacking civilians.

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has vowed to investigate.

Residents in Khartoum have told the BBC they are living in fear as members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) roam the streets. The paramilitary unit – formerly known as the Janjaweed militia – gained notoriety in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan in 2003.

“Forty bodies of our noble martyrs were recovered from the river Nile yesterday,” the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

An official from the group told the BBC that they had witnessed and verified the bodies in hospitals and that the death toll now stood at 100.

What is happening in Sudan?

Demonstrators had been occupying the square in front of the military headquarters since 6 April, days before President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown after 30 years in power.

Their representatives had been negotiating with the TMC and agreed a three-year transition that would culminate in elections.

But on Monday, forces swept in and opened fire on unarmed protesters in the square.

Media captionSudan military attacks protesters

On Tuesday TMC leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced that negotiations with protesters were over, all previous agreements were cancelled, and elections would be held within nine months. Demonstrators had demanded a longer period to guarantee fair elections and to dismantle the political network associated with the former government.

International condemnation of the crackdown was swift and on Wednesday Gen Burhan made another televised speech in which he said the TMC was willing to resume negotiations.

“We regret the events,” he said, without elaborating.

A TMC spokesman later said an investigation into the deaths of protesters had been launched.

Presentational grey line

Sudan’s old politics re-emerge

Analysis box by Fergal Keane

Sudan’s military has faced international condemnation for its attack, but there were clear signs this was likely to happen. The country has been driven backwards by a military elite intent on holding on to power.

The TMC has scrapped agreements reached with the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), saying this will speed up the transition to democratic elections. That plan is likely a fiction.

The military also enjoys another advantage. In an age of international division, the notion of an “international community” pressuring the regime is fantasy. Sudan’s crisis has exposed the reality of international politics – that force can have its way, without consequence, if the killers and torturers represent a valuable asset to other powers.

It is impossible to say whether the FFC can come back as a street-driven force. What will not change – in fact what has been deepened – is the alienation of people from their rulers.

Protesters had called for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, marked on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, to be celebrated in the streets, as a gesture of defiance against the military.

However, much of Khartoum is under lockdown. Witnesses said protesters had retreated to residential areas where they were building barricades and burning tyres.

Video shot on mobile phones showed columns of troops advancing through the streets.

What do residents say?

Protest organisers, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), accused the TMC of carrying out “a massacre” and urged its pro-democracy supporters to continue protesting peacefully.

“We have reached the point where we can’t even step out of our homes because we are scared to be beaten or to be shot by the security forces,” one Khartoum resident told the BBC.

Her uncle had witnessed three young men being executed in the city, she said.

Another resident, who also asked not to be named, said he was pulled from his car by members of the Janjaweed and beaten on his head and back.

Deserted street in Khartoum, 4 JuneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMuch of Khartoum is deserted as security forces spread across the city

Large numbers of heavily armed troops were also reported on the streets of Omdurman, Sudan’s second-largest city, just across the River Nile from Khartoum.

A woman, identified only as Sulaima, told the BBC that troops from the Rapid Support Forces were “all over Khartoum”.

“They’re surrounding neighbourhoods, they’re threatening people. They’re also using live ammunition. They’re everywhere. We’re not feeling safe and we don’t have trust in the security forces. It’s complete chaos.”

The RSF commander, Mohammed “Hemedti” Hamadan, is a close ally of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports, and has sent troops to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war.

What is the international reaction?

An attempt at the UN Security Council to condemn the violence was blocked on Tuesday by China, backed by Russia.

The UK and Germany had circulated a draft statement at the UN Security Council condemning the deaths of civilians and urging Sudan’s military and protesters to “continue working together” towards a solution.

China rejected the text and Russia said the council should first wait for a response from the African Union.

After the move was blocked, eight European countries issued their own joint statement condemning the attacks “by Sudanese security services against civilians” and calling for a transfer of power to a civilian-led government.

Speaking on BBC’s Newsday, former British ambassador to Sudan Rosalind Marsden said a snap election would “simply pave the way for much of the old regime to come back into power”.

“There’s a real risk of violence continuing,” she said.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48512413

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