By Agence France-Presse
Thousands of Sudanese protesters rallied across the country including in the capital Saturday to mourn dozens of demonstrators killed last month in a brutal raid on a Khartoum sit-in, witnesses said.
Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed by men in military fatigues in a pre-dawn raid on a protest site outside army headquarters on June 3.
Demonstrators who had camped there for weeks demanding civilian rule were shot and beaten.
The protest movement, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, had called for marches across the country on Saturday to mark 40 days since the raid that triggered international outrage.
Saturday’s rallies — dubbed “Justice First” — came as the protest movement urged supporters to take to the streets.
Chanting “Blood for blood, we won’t accept compensations,” crowds of protesters marched in Khartoum’s northern district of Bahari, a protest hotbed since demonstrations first erupted in December against the then regime of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
“We must take what is ours, we must free Sudan from its past. We want a civilian rule now,” said Abdelgadir Omar, an English teacher participating in a rally in the capital.
An 11-year-old boy taking part in a rally in Khartoum and waving a Sudanese flag said “all the mothers were crying in their homes when their children were killed”.
– ‘Justice for Martyrs’ –
Witnesses said a march also took place in the Haj Yousef area of the capital, and more rallies were expected in Khartoum later in the day.
Security forces closed all the roads that lead to the presidential palace in Khartoum and deployed along the road leading to the airport.
Hundreds rallied in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum while hundreds more also marched through the main streets of the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, the country’s main economic hub, witnesses said.
Protesters rallied in the eastern cities of Madani and Kassala and in the central city of Al-Obeid, witnesses told AFP by telephone.
Witnesses said many protesters were carrying banners that read: “Justice for Martyrs” while others held photographs of demonstrators killed in the raid.
Protesters also marched in the town of Atbara, where the first rally against Bashir’s government was held on December 19 in response to a decision to triple the price of bread.
The protests in December swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against the autocrat’s ironfisted three-decade rule.
Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11 after thousands of protesters camped outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum from April 6.
Protesters continued with their sit-in demanding that the generals themselves step down, ahead of their brutal dispersal on June 3.
The military council insists it did not order the raid, which according to the protest movement left more than 100 killed and hundreds wounded on that day.
But after intense mediation by African Union and Ethiopian mediators a landmark power sharing deal was reached earlier this month that aims to set up a joint civilian-military governing body.
– ‘Real partnership’ –
The new governing body aims to install a transitional civilian administration for a period of just over three years.
The agreement stipulates that the new governing body will be presided over by a military nominee for the first 21 months, and by a civilian for the last 18 months.
“We are not an enemy of the Alliance for Freedom and Change,” General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of the ruling military council, told a rally in comments broadcast on state television from the Nile State.
“We are in a real partnership.”
Dagalo is also the commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces which protesters and rights groups accuse of having carried out the June 3 raid.
Protest leader Mervet Hamdaneel said Saturday’s talks with generals to discuss some finer details of the blueprint had been postponed, without giving details.