“Armed soldiers threw me into the back of a military vehicle and beat me with the butts of their rifles. My blood soaked into my clothes while the vehicle drove to the district of Bori, east of Khartoum, where they threw me out to lay bleeding on the side of the road before a group of revolutionaries brought me to Yabstashiroun Hospital. As soon as my wounds were stitched, Rapid Support Forces stormed the hospital, but the doctors managed to hide me under the table they were working on.”
Bakri Othman, 28, whose head and hands were wrapped in medical gauze, recalled the events of Monday at dawn, after Rapid Support Forces stormed the sit-in outside of the military headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan, and opened heavy gunfire, dispersing the protest. The number of casualties has risen to 35 confirmed dead and more than 150 injured, according to the Sudan Doctors Union.
“The violence I witnessed when the Rapid Support Forces stormed the sit-ins and when I was violently attacked during my arrest will only make us more determined to confront them with peaceful means,” Othman adds.
In Khartoum, protesters put up barricades on thousands of kilometers of the capital’s roads in response to the violent dispersal of the sit-in. “The only choice in front of us is to place these barriers and completely paralyze the country following the opposition’s calls and the military council backing away from the deal,” Othman says as he rebuilds barricades in the Jabra neighbourhood in eastern Khartoum.
Following the dispersal of the sit-in, the Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been a key organizer of the protests, called for full civil disobedience and renewed its call for a comprehensive work strike following the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began on Tuesday. Partial blocks of the internet and other communications infrastructure have carried on for the second consecutive day.
Ismael al-Taj, spokesperson for the association, told Mada Masr that the state of paralysis in the capital and other cities points to the success of the planned civil disobedience. According to Taj, the disobedience will grow on Sunday after the holiday, when people from influential sectors like banking and the judiciary will join in.
Taj added that Sudan is living in a state of anger following the ruling Transitional Military Council’s decision to abandon the agreement reached with the Freedom and Change Coalition, which assumed representation of the Sudanese opposition. These repeated attacks by the Rapid Support Forces on groups of civilians will only escalate this anger, especially in Khartoum where they have been firing live ammunition and striking people with whips, he said.
Yabstashiroun Hospital was not the only hospital receiving protesters that was raided by the Rapid Support Forces. They also raided al-Moalem and Royal hospitals near the protest camp, eyewitnesses told Mada Masr. The forces raided and assaulted doctors at East Nile and al-Jawda hospitals after the doctors announced that they would treat wounded people from the protests, despite being located far from the sit-in.
According to the activist Marwan Said, the forces surrounded field clinics at the sit-in site and prevented paramedics from bringing the wounded there.
“I saw a military vehicle launch a grenade at an ambulance inside the sit-in,” he said.
The Rapid Support Forces was established in 2013 by the Sudanese government to counter a spike of activity by Darfur rebels in the west of the country, and in 2017 became part of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and is led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, known as Hemmeti, who is the deputy head of the ruling Transitional Military Council.
In mid-May, the Transitional Military Council and the Coalition for Freedom and Change reached an initial agreement on a transition to civilian government that included a three-year transition period and would form a 300-member civilian legislative body. However, there was no agreement on the nature of senior-level leadership during the transitional phase.
On Tuesday morning, Lieutenant General Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, head of the Transitional Military Council, announced on local television that following the sit-in dispersal on Monday, negotiations with the opposition were suspended, and called for elections within nine months.
Burhan’s announcement and the preceding violent sit-in dispersal come just days after his visit to Cairo on May 25, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. The next day, he visited Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, in the eastern city of Port Sudan, workers at the main seaport began an open strike. Abdel Latif Owshik, an employee at the Seaports Authority, said that “the workers at the port began a comprehensive strike from work in response to the opposition’s calls for civil disobedience, and in condemnation of the violent dispersal of thousands of Sudanese citizens protesting in front of the military headquarters.”
Three victims of the Rapid Support Forces attacks told Mada Masr that members of these forces were roaming around the central Hila Jadida district of Khartoum, removing the barriers and attacking civilians, seizing their phones and money.
Mada Masr also witnessed Rapid Support Forces vehicles in the streets of Khartoum working to remove the barriers, with men sitting on top holding guns in one hand and whips in the other, ordering all whom they found to remove the barriers at gunpoint. Yet the neighborhood youth and women’s councils gathered and rebuilt the barriers once again.
On Tuesday, the Coalition for Freedom and Change called on Sudanese citizens to perform an absentee funeral prayer during their Eid al-Fitr prayers for the victims of the attacks. Thousands of Sudanese people responded to the call to prayer in a number of mosques and public spaces in Khartoum and a number of other cities. However, security forces fired tear gas in a number of areas and dispersed those who responded to the call to pray for the victims after normal prayers, preventing them from gathering and protesting, according to eyewitnesses who spoke with Mada Masr.
Taj told Mada Masr that Burhan’s election announcement and praise of the forces after they attacked the sit-in has put the council head into confrontation with the Sudanese people.
“The Sudanese people will not be silent in the face of these brazen violations by militants. We in the Coalition for Freedom and Change will work with the people to further entrench our position until we achieve a civilian government.”