Sudanese took to the streets in their tens of thousands across the country on July 13, while negotiations for a transitional civilian-led government hung in the balance.
Two days later, protests broke out again in response to the killing of a civilian, shot dead in the town of El Souk, southeast of Khartoum. Witnesses reported that members of the feared Rapid Support Forces fired on protesters, who were demanding that the paramilitaries leave their town.
Negotiations between the democratic Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which seized control following the toppling of Omar Al Bashir’s regime in April, resumed on July 16.
Meanwhile, the TMC appealed a recent court decision to restore internet services across Sudan, sparking fears that it could be shut down again.
Green Left Weekly’s Susan Price spoke to Maysoon Elnigoumi and Osama Yousif from Sydney’s Sudanese community about recent developments.
What was the significance of the protests that took place across Sudan on July 13?
Elnigoumi: The protests marked 40 days since the June 3 massacre. Sudanese people usually mark the passing of their loved ones after 40 days.
The protests were held under the slogan of “justice to the martyrs”; they were demanding an independent trial of the perpetrators and punishment. This comes after the TMC's amended draft proposal to give members of the Sovereign Council impunity and immunity from trials on criminal charges.
What was most significant about these protests was that they emphasised the independence of neighbourhood resistance committees. A number of them determined the route and timing of the marches and have showed their capacity to mobilise and organise.
What was the outcome of the negotiations on July 14?
Elnigoumi: After a series of delays by the TMC, first announcing that the negotiations will be postponed indefinitely and then announcing that they will resume, we know that they are in a closed session.
The African Union (AU) delegate requested journalists leave the room and no cameras were allowed.
A statement by a member of the FFC stated that the original draft of the agreement — which stresses the symbolic powers of the Sovereign Council and which states that only procedural immunity will be granted to members of the council but not impunity against criminal charges — is non-negotiable.
Are the negotiations close to being concluded? What are the sticking points?
Elnigoumi: These past days we have witnessed a reluctance by the TMC to resume negotiations and attempts to impose a sort of de facto legitimacy as a governing body. For example, [Abdel Fattah] Al Burhan met with Jaafar Al Saddiq Al Mirghani, son of the head of the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the large traditional parties in Sudan. They have been touring cities and villages and in several neighbourhoods people witnessed police marches, which many interpreted as a show of power.
However, they do seem to be feeling the pressure by the AU/Ethiopian mediation initiative to reach an agreement.
With the internet ban lifted, more evidence of the June 3 massacre is being exposed. How will the movement ensure that those responsible are brought to justice?
Elnigoumi: A Sudanese court is moving to annul a previous court’s decision on the illegality of cutting the internet, on the grounds that the decision names “governing authorities” as responsible and there is no ruling body with this description as the council is a transitional body.
The videos of the massacre have created a unified position in the street that any kind of impunity will not be tolerated.
The FFC is demanding an independent investigation under the supervision of the African Union.
Yousif: The only way to ensure justice for our martyrs is in the streets.
The Sudanese people are demanding that this happens and they have pushed this demand on the FFC in their negotiations.
The BBC revealed that the order to break up the sit-in on June 3 came from the highest levels of the military. It has also been reported that a section of the military attempted a coup to disrupt the negotiations between the TMC and the FFC. Given this, how will the Sudanese people ensure that the military sticks to any agreement that is negotiated?
Yousif: Regarding the attempted coup, the TMC announced it but no one believes them. That is how it is. It has gone unnoticed. Even the TMC has forgotten about it. No one has been named, or brought to justice. It doesn't have any effect on the streets. The TMC announced it as a way to disrupt negotiations.
What are the neighbourhood committees doing and how are they organising? Are these the building blocks for a future civilian democratic Sudan?
Yousif: They are getting organised: they are providing services to different neighbourhoods, such as cleaning, holding health days and providing free doctors and free medicines.
This is in addition to their political activities which includes organising public meetings with the FFC organising body who provides speakers. They are putting demands into the negotiations, calling for justice for the martyrs and for a civilian government with full capacity. That is their role.