Internet shutdowns in Sudan complicate civil disobedience campaign against coup



Protesters carry a banner and national flags as they march against the recent takeover of power by the Sudanese army and the overthrow of the civilian government, through the streets of the capital Khartoum, Sudan, on October 30, 2021. REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin / File Photo

  • Activists launch two days of civil disobedience
  • Hindered by internet disruptions, cell phones
  • Police use tear gas in several locations – witnesses
  • Military chief meets Arab League delegation
  • Main rebel leaders reject coup

KHARTOUM, Nov. 7 (Reuters) – Sudanese pro-democracy groups launched two days of civil disobedience and strike on Sunday to protest against last month’s military coup, though attendance appears to be limited by disruptions in connections Internet and telephone.

A sign of the coup’s potential to undo efforts to end decades of internal conflict, the rebel armed factions that signed a peace deal last year rejected the coup and called for an end state of emergency.

The commander of the powerful Rapid Support Forces, who is number 2 in the Sudanese army, spoke in favor of the takeover in a midnight speech posted on Facebook.

The measures of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan “came to correct the course of the popular revolution and preserve the security and stability of the country”, declared General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, said Hemedti, deputy of Burhan at the Sovereign Council today dissolved.

Local resistance committees and the Association of Sudanese Professionals (SPA), which led protests in an uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, are organizing a campaign of protests and barricades in an attempt to reverse the military takeover.

People were on the streets on Sunday in the center of the capital, Khartoum, although there was less traffic than usual, residents said.

A teachers’ union said security forces used tear gas in the building of the Khartoum state education ministry to break up an organized sit-in to oppose any surrender to the appointed servicemen. Some 87 people were arrested, the statement said.

In several areas in eastern Khartoum, across the river in the Ombada neighborhood of Omdurman, police also used tear gas to disperse protests, witnesses said. On a main street in Khartoum, plainclothes security forces were seen alongside police, they said.

Demonstrations also took place in the towns of Medani, Nyala and Atbara, where hundreds of people protested against the return of Bashir worshipers to the local government, witnesses said.

INTERNET INTERRUPTION

Some hospitals and medical staff in Khartoum were working normally, while others were on strike.

“A number of people were unaware of the call for civil disobedience due to the Internet shutdown,” said a resident of central Khartoum, who asked not to be identified.

Internet services have been almost completely disrupted since the October 25 coup and phone coverage remains spotty. Daily life almost came to a halt after the recovery, but shops, roads and some banks have since reopened.

The coup put an end to a power-sharing deal between the military and civilians that was agreed to after Bashir’s overthrow and that was to lead to democratic elections by the end of 2023.

High-ranking civilians, including several ministers, were arrested and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.

Mediation efforts involving the United Nations have sought the release of detainees and a return to power sharing, but ousted government sources say those efforts have stalled. Read more

Since Bashir was overthrown, Sudan had emerged from decades of isolation and internal wars. A peace deal signed last year with rebel groups aimed to end several of these long-standing conflicts.

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, which has said it rejected the coup, includes rebel groups led by three men who had served on a military-civilian ruling council dissolved during the seizure, Elhadi Idris and Altahir Hajar of Darfur and Malik Agar from the south of the SPLM-N. .

Two other major rebel groups that did not sign the peace agreement also rejected the coup. Some signatories to the peace agreement, including leaders of Darfur rebel groups Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minawi, aligned themselves with the army in the weeks leading up to the coup.

On Sunday, an Arab League delegation met with Hamdok and Burhan, and stressed the importance of dialogue in order to return to a civil-military partnership, she said in a statement.

Activists demanding the exit from the political army announced a calendar of protests leading to mass rallies on Saturday, under the slogan: “No negotiation, no partnership, no compromise”.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets against the military regime in two huge protests before and after the coup.

Western powers have suspended economic aid to Sudan and say relief of tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt is threatened unless there is a return to democratic transition.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir; Written by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Gareth Jones, Peter Graff and Peter Cooney

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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