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Sudan protest calls for military coup as political crisis deepens

WORLD
By Reuters | October 17th 2021

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2020. [Reuters]

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the presidential palace in Khartoum on Saturday calling for the military to seize power as Sudan grapples with the biggest political crisis in its two-year-old transition.

The military and civilian groups have been sharing power in the East African country in an uneasy alliance since the toppling of long-standing President Omar al-Bashir in 2019.

But following a failed coup attempt in September attributed to forces loyal to Bashir, military leaders have been demanding reforms to the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition and the replacement of the cabinet.

Civilian leaders, however, have accused them of aiming for a power grab.

A military-aligned faction of the FFC, including armed groups that rebelled against Bashir, called for Saturday's protests and held a short event in a nearby convention hall.

The protesters chanted "down with the hunger government" and called for General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the armed forces and Sudan's joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, to initiate a coup and overthrow the government.

Unlike previous demonstrations, protesters were able to reach the gates of the presidential palace which are typically barricaded. There was little police presence at the protest.

The demonstrators, who were seen arriving in central Khartoum on dozens of buses, clashed with pro-civilian protesters.

Earlier, members of an unidentified armed group removed security barriers around government buildings and prevented the police and security forces from preparing for the march, Khartoum State governor Ayman Khalid said in a statement.

In a speech on Friday, civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok presented a roadmap out of the crisis and warned that failure to find a resolution would throw the country's future "to the wind." 

At the root of the crisis are disputes on issues of justice, military restructuring, and the dismantling of the financial apparatus of Bashir's regime, analysts say. 

Pro-civilian groups have called for protests on Thursday.

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