Sudan crisis: Call for civil disobedience after arrests

Sudan’s pro-democracy movement has called for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience, days after a bloody military crackdown left dozens dead.

Campaigners called for the action to start on Sunday, and continue until a civilian government was installed.

The move followed the arrest of three opposition figures who met Ethiopia’s PM to try to restart peace talks.

Protest leaders have rejected an offer of talks from the Transitional Military Council (TMC) currently running Sudan.

The TMC took over after persistent protests led to the ousting of long-time President Omar al-Bashir in April – but pro-democracy campaigners say it cannot be trusted due to recent bloodshed.

The military had promised a transition to civilian rule, but on Monday violently broke up a sit-in demonstration in Khartoum, killing scores of people.

What is the opposition calling for?

Details of what the civil disobedience action will involve were not immediately clear, but reports from the Sudanese capital say police have arrested key service workers ahead of a nationwide strike.

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“The civil disobedience movement will begin Sunday and end only when a civilian government announces itself in power on state television,” the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said in a statement.

“Disobedience is a peaceful act capable of bringing to its knees the most powerful weapons arsenal in the world.”

What do we know of the arrests?

Opposition politician Mohamed Esmat was arrested on Friday soon after his meeting with Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed, aides said, while Ismail Jalab, a leader of the rebel SPLM-N group, and his spokesman Mubarak Ardol were detained early on Saturday.

Their whereabouts are currently unknown and analysts say the arrests suggest that the mediation efforts have not been taken seriously by the military.

On Wednesday, the SPLM-N said its deputy head, Yasir Arman, had been arrested at his house in Khartoum. He had returned from exile following the downfall of Mr Bashir.

Mr Esmat and Mr Jalab are both leading members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella organisation of opposition figures, protest leaders and rebel groups.

“This amounts to a practical response from the military council that effectively rejects the Ethiopian prime minister’s mediation effort,” Khalid Omar Yousef, an opposition alliance leader said.

The TMC seems emboldened by the political and financial support it has received from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, none of which are keen on fully fledged democracy, says BBC World Service Africa editor Mary Harper.

How bad was the violence?

Opposition activists say a feared paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), killed 108 people in the crackdown, with at least 40 bodies pulled from the River Nile in Khartoum on Tuesday. Officials, however, put the figure at 46. The leader of the RSF says rogue elements and drug dealers were behind the violence.

The RSF, formerly known as the Janjaweed militia, gained notoriety for brutal atrocities in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan in 2003.

Khartoum residents have told the BBC that they are living in fear in the capital.

A number of women arrested by the RSF said they were repeatedly beaten with sticks and threatened with execution. They said RSF troops told them to run for their lives, then opened fire. Other victims, they said, were forced to drink sewage water and urinated on.

On Thursday the African Union suspended Sudan’s membership “with immediate effect” and warned of further action if power was not transferred to a civilian authority.

The chairman of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for an “immediate and transparent” investigation into the killings.

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