Heavily armed paramilitaries roamed the Sudanese capital Thursday, forcing fearful residents to hide indoors after a crackdown on protesters that authorities admitted had left dozens dead and prompted the African Union to suspend Khartoum.
Members of the Rapid Support Forces, who rights groups say have their origins in the Janjaweed militias of Darfur, deployed on the streets in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns and rocket launchers, witnesses said.
“We’re living in a state of terror because of sporadic gunfire,” a resident of south Khartoum told reporters.
He said he was “afraid for (his) children to go out in the street”.
As international condemnation mounted, a health ministry official told reporters that “the death toll across the country had risen to 61,” including 52 killed by “live ammunition” in Khartoum.
The Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors said Wednesday that 40 bodies had been pulled from the Nile, sending the death toll soaring to at least 108.
The committee, which is part of the protest movement and relies on medics on the ground for its information, warned the figure could rise.
The military ousted longtime president Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his authoritarian rule, but thousands of demonstrators had remained camped out in front of the army headquarters calling for the generals to cede power to civilians.
Despite several initial breakthroughs, talks between the ruling military council that took power after Bashir’s ouster and protest leaders collapsed over who should head a new governing body.
‘Feeling of terror’ –
Some life had returned to the streets of the capital on Thursday, with limited public transport operating and only a few cars on the roads.
A small number of shops and restaurants were open on the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
But in Omdurman, just across the Nile from Khartoum, a resident said there was a “feeling of terror” about “many military vehicles with all these weapons”.
“We hope that this situation will end quickly so normal life resumes,” he told reporters.
At Khartoum’s airport, relatives of travellers stayed late into the night waiting to see if their flights would arrive, following a slew of cancellations over the past few days.
Internet blackouts continued to beset the city.
The African Union suspended Sudan, “until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis”, it said on Twitter.
The AU had urged the ruling generals to ensure a smooth transition of power, but the brutal crackdown to disperse protesters saw pressure mount on it to bring those responsible for the violence to justice.
The European Union said it joined the AU in calling for “an immediate end to violence and a credible enquiry into the criminal events of the last days”.
France called for the “resumption of dialogue” between the military committee and the opposition so that an “inclusive agreement is quickly found”.
‘Extreme caution’ –
The United Nations and the British embassy announced they were pulling non-essential staff and their families from Sudan, and the United States warned its citizens to exercise “extreme caution” amid the ongoing uncertainty.
Despite the heavy presence of security forces on Khartoum’s main streets, the groups that spearheaded the demonstrations against Bashir made a fresh call on Thursday for civil disobedience.
“The revolution continues and our people are victorious despite the terrorism and violence of the militias,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group that initially launched the anti-Bashir campaign, posted on Twitter.
It urged an “indefinite strike and civil disobedience,” warning against calls for violence.
In the northern suburb of Bahri, smaller roads were blocked by protesters putting up makeshift barricades made from rocks, bricks and tree trunks.
The protesters blamed the bloody crackdown on the “militias” of the military council.
The Rapid Support Forces have been singled out by protesters.
Some residents seemed wary of the heavy deployment of paramilitaries in the streets of the capital.
RSF commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as “Himediti,” said he was on the side of the “revolutionaries” but warned he would not “allow chaos,” referring specifically to the barricades put up in some neighbourhoods.
The ruling Military Council issued a statement hitting out at the “campaign organised on social media aimed at spreading lies and fabricating accusations”.
It said the RSF “refused to carry out the orders of the former regime to expel demonstrators from the sit-in by force”.
Sudan gets new defence minister
Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council said.
Sudan has sworn in new defence minister, Maj. Gen Yassin Ibrahim, two months after the death of the former defence chief, General Jamal al-Din Omar who died while in neighbouring South Sudan for peace talks with the country’s main rebel groups.
Ibrahim, 62, was sworn in Tuesday before Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, a statement from the council.
The new defence chief came out of retirement to take the position.
His appointment comes a year after long-time autocrat Omar Bashir was toppled in mass protests in April 2019.
“We will work side by side doing our best… to achieve the goals of the constitutional declaration,” the official SUNA news agency quoted Ibrahim as saying after he was sworn in.
The swearing-in came amid tensions with neighbouring Ethiopia over a cross-border attack allegedly conducted by a militia backed by Ethiopia’s military.
Since August last year a transitional government, comprised of civilians and military officials, has taken over the reins of power in Sudan after political factions adopted a constitutional declaration.
The declaration paved the way for the new government to steer the country to civilian rule during a three-year transition.
But the transition has been fragile with the government facing major challenges, including soaring inflation, a huge public debt, tribal clashes and efforts to forge peace with rebels.
Tunisia to reopen borders, airspace on June 27
Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.
Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh has announced that the country will reopen its land, air and sea borders from June 27.
He also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.
Fakhfakh made the announcement after a meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus on Monday.
Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, a Xinxua news agency report said.
The North African country has received support from various countries including China.
On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.
Egypt, France plan to end terrorism in Libya
Both countries showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have discussed the development of several regional issues, including the situation in Libya.
During a phone call on Saturday, Macron said he is keen to exchange views with Sisi over these issues as Cairo plays a key political role in the region, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.
For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s firm position towards the Libyan crisis based on restoring Libyan national state institutions, ending the spread of criminal groups and terrorist militias.
He added that Egypt also gives top priority to combating terrorism, achieving stability and security and putting an end to illegal foreign interventions in Libya, a Xinhua news agency report said.
The two presidents agreed to intensify their coordination in the coming period, stressing the necessity to end the Libyan crisis by reaching a political solution that paves the way for the return of security and stability in the country, the spokesman said.
They showed support for international endeavors as well as implementing the results of the Berlin process to end the conflict in Libya.
Libya has been locked in a civil war since the ouster and killing of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The Libyan conflict escalated in 2014, splitting power between two rival governments, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli and another in the northeastern city of Tobruk allied with self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.
While Egypt supports Haftar’s LNA that seeks to take over Tripoli, Turkey backs the Tripoli-based GNA.