Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in the “millions march” to demand an end to the military rule instituted three months ago after a coup took place. Al Jazeera reports that the demonstrators were calling for the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to cede control to civilian rule and justice for the more than 100 people killed when the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attacked a protest camp outside of the military headquarters on June 3. According to Al Jazeera, the protesters were met with tear gas, live ammunition and stun grenades as they chanted, “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!”
“There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don’t want problems,” said General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, chief of the RSF. However, several international bodies issued statements in support of the protesters. The European Union said the demonstrators’ “right to peacefully protest and express their views on June 30, or on any other date, remains key,” while Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo stated that the TMC “must not allow the country to slide back into yet more repression.”
However, the paramilitaries’ harsh treatment of civilians in Sudan calling for democracy within the country defies this call from the international community to respect the Sudanese public’s right to peacefully protest. The military council’s hard denunciation and crackdown of the pro-democracy demonstrations undermines the working relationship between itself and groups representing the protestors that seek to find a peaceful path forward for Sudan. Since the violence, the civilian party has become increasingly distrustful and unwilling to negotiate with the TMC, setting the negotiations back.
According to Al Jazeera, the TMC took power after a military coup last April ousted President Omar al-Bashir, an autocrat who himself took power via a military coup in 1989. The BBC reported that negotiations initially took place between civilians and the TMC, leading to an agreement to transition to civilian rule over three years. However, the TMC called off negotiations with the Alliance for Freedom and Change, a group that represents the protestors, shortly before the June 3 crackdown that resulted in 100 deaths, after which the leaders of the movement stopped negotiating and called for “total civil disobedience.” The Associated Press reported that Ethiopia and the African Union have stepped in to mediate negotiations, presenting a joint proposal to the two parties that would help set up a new transitional government. The military council stated they were ready to resume negotiations after Sunday based on this proposal, however the Alliance for Freedom and Change has refused to resume negotiations until the military council signs on to the joint proposal.
The TMC ought to recommit itself to peaceful negotiations and an eventual return to civilian rule rather than using force to try to suffocate the movement for democracy within Sudan. Meanwhile, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which have all supported the military council, should switch to following the example of Ethiopia and the African Union in endorsing negotiations, peace and an end to the rampant violence within Sudan.
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