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Sudan security fires tear gas as anti-coup campaign starts

(Sudanese women walk in front of tyres set ablaze by anti-coup demonstrators in the capital Khartoum, on November 7, 2021. Photo: AFP)

KHARTOUM, (AFP):- Sudanese security forces on Sunday fired tear gas at an anti-coup rally by a group of teacher at the start of a two-day civil disobedience call against last month’s military takeover.

Dozens of teachers carried banners reading “no, no to military rule” and called for a transition to “full civilian rule” at a rally outside the education ministry in the capital Khartoum.

Nationwide anti-coup protests — including by tens of thousands on October 30 — have occurred since the October 25 coup but have been met by a deadly crackdown. At least 14 demonstrators have been killed and about 300 wounded, according to the independent Central Committee of Sudan’s Doctors.

“We organised a silent stand against the decisions by Burhan outside the ministry of education,” said Mohamed al-Amin, a geography teacher who took part in that stand against the country’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“Police later came and fired tear gas at us though we were simply standing on the streets and carrying banners,” he said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties but a union of Sudanese educators said “a large number of teachers were detained.”

The teachers’ rally came after the military leadership which carried out the coup replaced heads of department at the education ministry, as part of sweeping changes it made in multiple sectors.

“The protest rejects the return of remnants of the old regime” of ousted president Omar al-Bashir, the teachers union said in a Facebook post.

Sunday’s rally followed calls for civil disobedience made by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella of unions which were instrumental in the 2018-2019 protests which ousted the longtime autocrat Bashir in April 2019.

“The Sudanese people have rejected the military coup,” the SPA said on Twitter, vowing “no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy”.

“We will start by barricading the main streets to prepare for the mass civil disobedience on Sunday and Monday,” it said, urging protesters to avoid confrontation with the security forces.

Since late Saturday, protesters were seen piling up bricks and large slabs to block streets in Khartoum and neighbouring cities, according to witnesses and AFP correspondents.

The latest resistance effort came almost two weeks after Burhan dissolved the government as well as the ruling joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that was supposed to lead the country toward full civilian rule.

Burhan also declared a state of emergency and detained Sudan’s civilian leadership.

– Text messages –

The SPA circulated its latest appeals via text messages to bypass internet outages since the putsch.

By Sunday morning, some shops were still open but others were shuttered in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Khartoum-North, according to witnesses.

“Movement on the streets is less than usual but there is not full blockage of streets or closure of shops” after the civil disobedience call, said a witness from Omdurman who declined to give his name fearing reprisals.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was briefly detained but later placed under effective house arrest.

On Thursday, the military released four civilian members of his government but other key figures remain in detention.

The same day, security forces arrested other civilian leaders near a United Nations building in Khartoum following their meeting with UN special representative in Sudan Volker Perthes.

“We call upon the military leadership to cease arresting politicians and activists and to stop committing human rights violations,” Perthes said in a statement on Friday.

The military takeover sparked international condemnation, including punitive aid cuts and demands for a swift return to civilian rule.

Burhan insists it “was not a coup” but a move to “rectify the course of the transition.”

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