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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

More tragedy hit Sudan protest, at least 4 killed

Medics linked to Sudan’s opposition said at least four protesters were killed by gunfire in the city of Omdurman on Thursday as hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Sudan to pile pressure on the country’s military rulers.

Organisers had called for a million-person march in response to the killing of young protesters in El-Obeid, a city southwest of the capital Khartoum, earlier this week.

Thursday’s killings, reported by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, one of the main protest groups, came as opposition leaders said there had been some progress in talks with the military on reaching a deal to form a new government after the ousting of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir.

Sudan has been gripped by months of political turmoil that climaxed in the army overthrowing Bashir in April. The opposition has kept up protests, pressing the army to hand over to civilians.

Despite signing a deal in July which secured a three-year transition period and a joint sovereign council with a rotating leadership, talks over the wording of a constitutional declaration on the changes have stumbled.

“The agreement is really now just around the corner,” Satea al-Hajj, a leader in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition of opposition groups, said in a press conference in Khartoum on Thursday.

Negotiations were set to restart later on Thursday, the spokesman for the military council said.

Calls for justice

The opposition had demanded that members of the sovereign council, which is intended to lead the country until elections are held, should not be granted blanket immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

But FFC leaders said on Thursday they had agreed that they could be granted only ‘procedural immunity’  meaning top officials could be tried with the permission of two-thirds of the legislative council.

The opposition leaders said both sides also agreed another key point, reaffirming that the parties included in the FFC would have 67% of the legislative council while the rest will be granted to other opposition and political groups.

Sudan’s ruling military council did not immediately confirm the details of the agreements.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main protest group and a leading voice in the FFC, had called for those responsible for Monday’s killings in El-Obeid to be brought to justice.

The FFC accused military and paramilitary forces of firing on the high school pupils as they protested over bread and fuel shortages.

A senior army commander said a security force assigned to guard a bank was responsible for killing children protesting there, the official SUNA news agency reported on Thursday. The bank guards were a government security force.

Opposition groups have also accused the main paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, of killing scores of protesters since Bashir was ousted and the RSF’s role remains a point of contention.

The FFC said on Thursday that the RSF should be merged into the armed forces, a proposal opposed by Sudan’s ruling generals, said al-Hajj.

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