Three Months Later, Sudanese Military Escalates Violent Repression of Protests

The Sudanese military opened fire on protesters on Monday, June 3rd, in an attempt to disperse protesters’ longstanding occupation of the Defence Ministry headquarters in Khartoum. After tear gas and sound grenades were unsuccessful in dissolving crowds, the military eventually resorted to live ammunition, blocking the exits of the sit-in site and “shooting at everyone randomly.” Initial reports claim that the open fire claimed 35 lives and injured hundreds of others. However, reports from doctors at the scene estimate a far larger number of casualties, nearing 100 dead since Monday.

The demonstrations that began just prior to the beginning of 2019 have been marred with violence. Just two weeks ago, several protesters were killed and numerous others were injured in clashes with the military. However, Monday’s attacks claimed the most lives since a deadly week in early April, directly preceding former president Omar al-Bashir’s removal.

According to reports from Al Jazeera, Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary unit responsible for Monday’s massacre, evicted injured protesters from local hospitals on Tuesday, before  proper treatment could be administered.

After assisting in al-Bashir’s ousting in April, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) announced it would preside over a 3-year transition period before the next election, and subsequently become the face of opposition to civilian demands.

These demands, articulated by leaders of the demonstrations such as the Sudanese Professional Association and Forces of Freedom and Change, insist on the immediate transfer of power to a democratic civilian government throughout the 3-year transition period before the next elections.

The TMC’s public response to civilian demands has been laden with veiled threats over the course of the negotiations. Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, leader of the military junta responsible for Monday’s massacres warned that armed forces “will not tolerate chaos” and that all protesters must not be considered “above the law.” Notably, Hemeti draws support from leaders of the Janjaweed, the militia responsible for genocide in Darfur.

Since Monday’s massacre, all negotiations between civilian leaders and the TMC have been suspended. The TMC has subsequently announced it would hold elections in nine months. Pro-democracy demonstrators have rejected this plan, grounded in the belief that the military is incapable of relinquishing power in order to facilitate a democratic process.

These attacks drew widespread international condemnation. However, the United Nations Security Council has subsequently failed to reach a joint position, as Russia and China have blocked a bid to release a statement denouncing the situation. Instead, the two countries urged the Council to exercise caution, and wait for the African Union to release a statement first.