Thousands of Sudanese flooded the streets of the capital of Khartoum and other cities on Saturday to mark the 40th day since the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in as the country’s ruling generals and pro-democracy movement postponed a planned a meeting to sign a power-sharing deal until Sunday.
The “Justice First” marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which has been spearheading the protests since December. Those demonstrations led to the military ouster of autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April.
The marches mark 40 days since the dispersal of the pro-democracy protesters’ sit-in in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3. Protest organizers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown. Authorities, however, put the death toll at 61, including three from security forces.
Protesters have called for a “transparent and fair” investigation into the deaths.
Footage and photos posted by the SPA showed thousands of people demonstrating in the capital and its sister city of Omdurman. There were protests in other places, including the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and the eastern province of Kassala.
Protesters were seen waving Sudanese flags and posters that read: “Freedom, Peace and Justice” and “Civilian (authority) is the people’s choice.”
The protest organizers hope that large numbers take part in the marches similar to massive demonstrations on June 30, when tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets in the biggest show of numbers in the uprising. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
Saturday’s marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement. African Union envoy Mohammed el-Hassan Labat originally said a meeting would take place on Saturday night. But Ahmed Rabei, a spokesman for the SPA, said later the protest movement called for the talks to be postponed until Sunday “for more consultations” within the FDFC on the deal.
The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays have been announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details.
The Sudanese Communist Party, which is part of the protest movement, criticized the “vague” talks between the military council and the FDFC. Mahmoud al-Khateib, the party’s political secretary, said his party rejected the current members of the military council participation in the transition.
The deal includes a joint Sovereign Council set to rule for a little over three years while elections are organized, along with a constitutional declaration, according to a copy of the deal obtained by The Associated Press. A military leader is to head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
The deal, which also includes an FDFC-appointed cabinet, was meant to end a weeks-long political deadlock between the military and protesters since the Khartoum sit-in site was cleared.
They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month, though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable.
Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, told a gathering of military supporters in the Nile River province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Khartoum, that his forces, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, “are not angels and we will try all offenders.”
The RSF grew out of the notorious Janjaweed militias used by al-Bashir in the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. Protesters accuse it of leading the nationwide crackdown and the SPA has called for the force to be disbanded.
Dagalo accused “intelligence agencies” of defaming the RSF. He did not elaborate.