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Sudan businesses shut as protesters keep up civil disobedience

By AFP - Jun 12,2019 - Last updated at Jun 12,2019

Sudanese residents walk in the central market of Khartoum on Monday, as most of the shops and businesses remained shut (AFP photo)

KHARTOUM — A protest strike kept most businesses shut and residents hunkered indoors in the Sudanese capital Tuesday as a top US diplomat prepared a visit to press the ruling generals to halt a bloody crackdown.

Protest leaders stepped up the pressure on the generals by announcing they would soon release a list of members for a new ruling body — the key point of dispute between the two sides.

Most shops and businesses remained closed on the third day of a civil disobedience campaign launched by protest leaders after a crackdown on a weeks-long sit-in left dozens dead on June 3.

Public buses were operating in some parts of Khartoum and some neighbourhood vegetable markets were open, an AFP correspondent reported.

But the capital's main business and commercial districts were shut with some companies extending to the end of the week the Eid Al Fitr holidays marking the end of Ramadan.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused of having played the lead role in the June 3 crackdown patrolled districts in their trademark pickup trucks fitted with heavy machineguns.

"We are now getting used to live with guns as we are seeing so many of these men walking into restaurants with their weapons," one resident said as a group of RSF members entered an eatery.

Fewer people were on the streets than usual.

"In the last three days, we have lost a lot of money," said Ibrahim Omar, an employee at one of many tour firms hit hard by a nationwide internet blackout on Monday.

"We are not doing any international flight bookings. I hope it does not continue like this."

In the northern district of Bahari, a hotbed of unrest where protesters had put had roadblocks in the past few weeks, most shops were closed but there were no barricades to be seen, an AFP corespondent reported.

Demonstrators declared their nationwide shutdown a success.

“This shows clearly what we can do, and also in a peaceful way,” said Ishraga Mohamed.

“Such a campaign does not lead to killing people and at the same time puts pressure on the military council. We will continue with it until our goal is achieved.”

Protest leaders vowed to name a new ruling body to replace the generals.

“The Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) will reveal its sovereign council and a prime minister in an announcement to be made at a suitable time,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, a key member of the umbrella protest movement, said late on Monday.

The crackdown by the military came after negotiations between protest leaders and the generals collapsed late last month over who should lead the new governing body — a civilian or a soldier.

The AFC said the campaign of civil disobedience “clearly shows that the Sudanese people are rejecting the military council and its militias and they have lost their legitimacy”.

Since toppling longtime president Omar Al Bashir on April 11, the generals have resisted demonstrators’ demands, backed by Western and most African governments, to make way for a civilian-led transition.


US call to stop attacks 


The US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Tibor Nagy, plans to meet both the generals and protest leaders in Khartoum, the State Department said.

He is to leave on the trip on Wednesday and also visit Addis Ababa to discuss the Sudan crisis with Ethiopian leaders and the African Union.

“He will call for a cessation of attacks against civilians and urge parties to work toward creating an enabling environment” for talks to resume, the State Department said.

The United States has led calls for a civilian-led transition even as its Arab allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have backed the generals.

The military-led government has blamed deteriorating conditions in Khartoum on the protesters’ disobedience campaign.

“We are appealing to those who blocked the roads to open them for all the sick people... since many people lost their lives because they cannot reach the hospital,” senior health ministry official Mohamed Altom told reporters during a tour organised by the ministry.

The generals said they would send in security reinforcements.

“The military council has decided to reinforce the presence of armed forces, RSF and other regular forces to help normal life return,” a general said late on Sunday.

But many residents back the protesters’ demands.

“The military council should hand over the government to civilians as nobody wants the military to rule... people don’t like them,” said Ahmed Abdallah, a resident of an upscale Khartoum neighbourhood.

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