The mass marches, held despite a coronavirus lockdown, were billed as an attempt to “correct the path of the revolution”.
Demonstrators gathered in the capital Khartoum and its twin cities Khartoum North and Omdurman after the government closed roads and bridges leading to the centre of the capital.
Police used tear gas to disperse marchers on a road leading to the airport in Khartoum.
Similar protests also took place in Kassala in eastern Sudan, in the Darfur region and in dozens of cities across the country.
Some protesters blocked streets with burning tyres.
“The revolution is at risk,” said Hussam Ali, a member of a Khartoum resistance committee—the neighbourhood groups that were at the forefront of protests last year. He told The New Humanitarian website, “We feel that the military has arranged its cards and still has greed for power.”
The latest phase of the Sudanese movement for democracy and social justice began in December 2018.
It saw courageous mass protests, general strikes and weeks of sit-ins across several cities.
It forced the military to remove dictator Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for 30 years, and won other concessions. But it did not completely transform the political order or bring fundamental change in people’s living conditions.
A rotten agreement in August 2019 saw “power-sharing” between the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which took over after Bashir was overthrown, and the pro-democracy movement.
A sovereignty council—comprising six civilian and five military members—oversees the government.
The council’s chair is lieutenant general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who headed the TMC. Also on the council is general Mohamed “Hemeti” Dagalo, who heads the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
This is the force that carried out a massacre of 120 pro-democracy activists in June 2019.
Very soon there was anger at the new government.
In October 2019 people took to the streets in the capital Khartoum and several other Sudanese cities.
Now people are again frustrated at the slow pace of change—and are demanding the complete dismantling of the former regime.
This week’s march was called by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) and the resistance committees.
They are demanding the appointment of civilian governors for Sudan’s provinces. They also demand peace with the country’s rebels In Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan who were supposed to be part of the power-sharing deal.
And they call for swift, public trials for Bashir and top officials in his government. This demand raises the question of why the deal last year allowed such butchers as Hemeti to be part of the Sovereignty Council.
Bashir, who has been in prison in Khartoum since his removal, faces an array of accusations related to the way he came to power in a 1989 coup.
Demonstrators also said justice has not been served over the killing of protesters since December 2018.
Sudan’s workers and the poor have repeatedly chafed at the new government. But they have not yet gone on to confront it with the power of the neighbourhood committees and the networks that were formed during the strikes in 2019.
At the moment the discontent is expressed but also managed within strict limits as a negotiating tactic by the SPA.
Real change means breaking from deals with the remnants of Bashir’s regime and instead forming organisations that can genuinely express the desire for transformation.
This will be even more important as economic hardship grows.
The economy is expected to shrink by 8 percent this year and inflation is already running at 100 percent.
The International Monetary Fund and other donors are demanding the removal of fuel and wheat subsidies. These are crucial for the 65 percent of Sudan’s 44 million people who live in poverty.
It was Bashir’s attempt to remove the wheat subsidy—that saw the price of bread soar—which was the immediate trigger for the uprising in December 2018.
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