CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese security forces closed off major roads and streets leading to the government and military headquarters in Khartoum on Thursday, ahead of protests called by activists in the capital and elsewhere in the country demanding speedy justice for those killed in a 2019 crackdown.
The planned marches commemorate the second anniversary of the June 3 breakup of a major protest camp outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum, and others elsewhere in the country. That came shortly after the military overthrew longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir amid a public uprising against his nearly three-decade rule.
Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy and is ruled by a transitional military-civilian government that faces towering economic and security challenges.
Protest organizers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown in June 2019, which was a turning point in the relationship between the generals and the protest movement that led the uprising against al-Bashir.
The crackdown also involved what activists describe as a campaign of rapes and sexual misconduct by troops ordered by the military to crush the pro-democracy movement.
Thursday’s demonstrations are called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, and the so-called Resistance Committees, which were instrumental in leading protests against al-Bashir.
The marches came amid mounting frustrations and criticism among activists who accuse the government of delaying and obstructing investigations and trials related to the crackdown on protesters.
The SPA has renewed its calls for an international investigation into the 2019 crackdown, an idea that has been repeatedly dismissed by the army generals.
The government established an independent committee in 2019 to investigate the crackdown, but the panel repeatedly missed its deadlines for reporting, angering victims’ families and rights groups.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said in a statement on the eve of the anniversary that his government has done its best to achieve justice. But it admitted that its “complicated ties” with security agencies overseen by the generals, “has sometimes slowed down justice and delayed the submission of information” prosecutors need for their investigations.
“It is travesty of justice that two years since this senseless and unprovoked attack on unarmed protesters took place claiming dozens of lives, no investigation report has been published and no-one responsible for the bloodshed has been held accountable. Instead those demanding justice have faced further attacks,” said Deprose Muchena, a regional director at Amnesty International.
Last month, two protesters were killed when troops opened fire on a demonstration in the capital at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The June 2019 disposal of the Khartoum protest camp also coincided with the end Ramadan.