Sudan’s ruling military council on Tuesday called for fresh presidential elections after troops clashed with pro-democracy protestors, AP reported. At least 35 people were killed and scores injured on Monday in Khartoum when the security forces stormed the main protest camp and tried to disperse demonstrators at a sit-in.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the military council, called for national elections within nine months. “The only way to rule Sudan is through the ballot box, al-Burhan said in an address on state TV, according to CNN. He said a caretaker government will be formed to oversee the period before elections.
The military council and opposition groups had agreed on a three-year transition to democracy after a coup in April. The military coup had ousted President Omar al-Bashir. The protestors have demanded that the Transitional Military Council, which has ruled the country since April, make way for a civilian-led interim body.
Al-Burhan expressed regret at Monday’s violence and called those who died martyrs. He, however, did not directly say that the military was responsible. He said Sudan’s general prosecutor will investigate the incident. Attorney General Maulana Al-Walid Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud had said that a committee had been created to probe the violence.
Protestors said they were peaceful and unarmed. According to eyewitnesses, the military fired live rounds on Monday. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors alleged that the security forces surrounded hospitals where the wounded and the dead were taken. The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded nationwide protests, said Monday’s crackdown amounted to a “bloody massacre”, reported Al Jazeera. However, the Transitional Council said the military “didn’t disperse the sit-in by force” but focused on a gathering in a nearby “dangerous area”.
Internet in Sudan has been blocked in places. “It appears some effort is being made to restrict selectively, either because those who ordered the disruptions also rely on some networks which need to be kept running, or because the network operators are not cooperating willingly,” said monitoring organisation Netblocks.
The crackdown drew global condemnation. United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the British Ambassador in Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, and the Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, criticised the violence. Qatar and Germany called on the military council and protestors to return to negotiations soon.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he “strongly condemns the violence and reports of the excessive use of force by security personnel on civilians, that have resulted in the deaths and injury of many”. He asked the Sudanese authorities to facilitate an independent investigation and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.