Sudanese security forces kill two on second day of general strike

Despite heavy police repression, the strike saw widespread participation from workers across sectors in Sudan

May 31, 2019 by Pavan Kulkarni
Sudanese protesters outside army headquarters in Khartoum. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

On the second day of the political general strike in Sudan, two protesters were killed in cross-fire between security forces, dozens were injured and several were arrested. The strike which began on Tuesday, May 28 had a workforce participation rate of over 90%.

Public transportation, banking system, ports, hospitals and pharmacies – all remained closed across the country for two days as the employees across the private and public sectors, including those working for various government ministries, went on a general strike.

Radio Dabanga reported that newsstands were empty during the strike, demonstrating the participation of journalists and other staff employed by the media industry.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) – which has been spearheading the mass-demonstrations since December – gave the call for the general strike, with the support of a number of opposition parties, in order to pressurize the military junta, which has been holding power since April 11, to make way for civilian rule during the transition period.

On the first day of the industrial action, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary force headed by the junta’s vice-president, attempted to break the strike by barging into the Central Bank of Sudan’s branch in Khartoum. The attempt failed, and the employees of the Omdurman National Bank, one of the few banks which was not shut down on the first day, also joined the strike action on Wednesday.

Hundreds of employees from various banks staged protests, demanding the release of those staff members of the Central Bank of Sudan who were detained during the raid on Tuesday. The managers of this bank have demanded an apology from the junta for the raid. Should the junta fail to do so, they threatened to go on an open strike and reiterated their readiness to escalate their action into a civil disobedience campaign.

On the second day of the strike, the security forces again resorted to force while attempting to disperse the sit-in demonstration which has surrounded the army HQ and the defense ministry in Khartoum.

Two people were killed by “stray bullets”. Reports indicate that the firing started after an argument between the RSF – a notorious paramilitary force consisting of fighters who committed genocide in Darfur – and the regular forces, among whose rank-and-file many are sympathetic to the protesters.

The Sudanese Doctors Committee (SDC) has confirmed that one of the killed was a pregnant woman, who died along with the fetus in her womb. She eked a living by selling tea on the streets. SPA has stated that a number of others were injured in this incident.

While the Transitional Military Council (TMC), through which the army is holding power, has refused to accept the responsibility for the killing on the grounds that the soldier who fired was drunk.

Forces also raided the Ramtan News Agency in Khartoum, where they detained a news producer and a photographer, and also confiscated equipment and documents of the company on Wednesday. The Al Jazeera Media Network was also shut down, and the authorities withdrew work-permits of the staff and journalists working for this channel.

In the Red Sea state, four members of the organizing committee which led the strike of port workers were arrested, according to a statement by the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP).

Yesterday, after the strike was lifted, numerous processions headed to the main sit-in in Khartoum. On such procession arriving from South Khartoum was fired upon, injuring at least eight, one of whom succumbed to his injuries.

The TMC’s spokesperson has claimed that the protesters at the sit-in demonstration were “unruly elements” who presented a threat to the “the coherence of the state and its national security”, indicating that harsher measures will be employed in the coming days.

Prior to this announcement by the junta, the SPA said in a statement, a “recognizable number of Military trucks that have the signs of the National Intelligence, RSF and Security Forces are accumulating in different locations around the sit-in. Moreover, a caution letter was sent to diplomatic missions in Khartoum to warn them not to visit the sit-in areas.”

“We call upon all actors to monitor closely the situation in Sudan and exert all types of pressure on the TMC to prevent an imminent threat to the freedoms and lives of sudanese people,” the statement concluded.

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