On July 14, witnesses say that members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) stationed in El-Souk in the state of Sennar in Sudan shot and killed a protester and injured several others. The shooting began after citizens gathered at the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) office to protest the presence of the RSF in the area. Their protest was specifically driven by the RSF’s response to rallies held on July 13 in many cities in Sudan to grieve for the lives lost on June 3 in the raid of the Khartoum sit-in. The leader of the RSF and vice president of the ruling military council, General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo, has recently been involved in the crafting of a power-sharing deal with the help of negotiators from the African Union. However, despite his efforts to encourage support for the deal, even though it has been completed for about 10 days, it has still not been signed.
According to BBC, an unnamed witness described the violence against protesters on July 14 in the following quote: “RSF members deployed and initially started shooting in the air but later they opened fire at residents, killing a man and wounding several other people.” According to Al Jazeera, a group of doctors who are allied with the opposition movement, the Freedom and Change alliance, stated that a protester “was killed by a gunshot in his head fired by Rapid Support Forces militia.” In regards to the events of July 13 that prompted the protest on July 14, according to Al Jazeera, a witness outlined what occurred at a youth club where protesters met to mourn those who were killed in the crackdown in Khartoum on June 3 in the following quote: “During that rally, the RSF raided a youth club and beat the youths there.” According to BBC, the ruling military council has not made a statement or responded to questions since the incident in El-Souk and neither has the RSF.
Exerting violence against peaceful demonstrations is not an acceptable response. The recent demonstrations in Sudan were organized for the purposes of protesting RSF violence and mourning the loss of lives during the crackdown on June 3. There is no reason for these events to be disrupted or broken up. If the ultimate aim is to create peace between protesters and the ruling military council, then the RSF should not break up every attempt of the citizens to gather as a group. Stifling their ability to assemble sends a message of oppression and lack of trust. Citizens should be able to meet together and should have the freedom to decide what causes to support, to protest the happenings they find troubling, and to establish a platform as a citizenry. A country is made up of its people. They should be the main decision-makers, and thus, they should be able to gather in groups to decide and protest as one. Additionally, attempts to form a peaceful power-sharing agreement are good, but they should be treated with urgency to prevent any more violence against protesters. If an agreement is mostly complete, although it is important to iron out inconsistencies and small details to prevent conflict in the future, perhaps the implementation of a mostly complete agreement with the understanding that more conditions can be addressed later is more important. Without an agreement in place, more lives are likely to be lost due to violence.
After Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2019, the Transitional Military Council (TMC), headed by Dagalo, took control of the country despite the desire of many citizens for civilian rule. Protesters staged a sit-in in Khartoum which was then raided by the RSF on June 3. Though Dagalo claims that the RSF was not responsible for the crackdown, over 100 protesters were killed as a result of the violence. The power-sharing agreement outlines a promise to investigate the violence against protesters that has occurred over the past year. It also outlines a 21-month period to be headed by a military transitional authority followed by an 18-month period headed by a civilian leader, and finally, elections.
It remains to be seen how the RSF or the ruling military council will respond to the most recent attack against protesters and whether the groups will continue to respond to protests with violence. Events in the near future will also determine whether the power-sharing agreement will be signed and whether it will help to quell some of the violence that has plagued Sudan recently.