Sudan: Anti-Bashir protesters 'protected' by army on fifth day of sit-in
Sudanese protesters calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down continued their fifth day of a sit-in demonstration on Wednesday outside the country's army headquarters. Protesters and activists say soldiers are supporting their demonstration and protecting them against other members of the Sudanese security forces.
“I'm right in front of the command of the air force and they are greeting us, we have conversations with them and they're so, so friendly,” 25-year-old protester Julius told RFI by telephone early on Wednesday morning.
“Day after day they are deeper [sic] interacting with the movement,” said Julius, the sounds of drums and music clearly audible over the telephone. “We feel safe, we feel protected by the army - they are all surrounding the area,” he added.
Protesters began a sit-in outside the military headquarters on Saturday marking a renewal in demonstrations that had dwindled since a state of emergency imposed by Bashir. The army complex also houses Sudan's defence ministry and president's residence.
“People want to build a new Sudan,” said a banner erected by protesters on a bridge near the military headquarters, while some demonstrators built makeshift stone barricades.
Protesters saluted soldiers marching through the area near the military headquarters, according to videos posted on social media on Wednesday morning.
Reports over the weekend indicated clashes took place between members of the army and other security forces such as the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
“They have been protecting the protesters from the extensive violence from the National Intelligence Services [NISS],” said Sarah Abdelgalil, a Europe-based spokesperson for the Sudan Doctors Union, talking about the role of the military.
“It indicates that the middle rank and lower rank in the army forces are not happy with what's happening and they are supporting the Sudan uprising,” said Abdelgalil by telephone early on Wednesday morning. “What is preventing them is that the senior officers are pro-government and are part of the National Congress Party (NCP),” she added.
Supporters of Bashir have called for a rally on Thursday, urging members of the ruling party to gather in opposition to the anti-government protesters.
Ahmed Harun, acting chief of the NCP, said in a statement that the ruling party calls for a “gathering to be seen by all the people on Thursday”, according to the AFP news agency.
"I call on all members of NCP across the state of Khartoum to participate in this rally," Harun added, AFP reported.
Demonstrations in Sudan started in December over increases to the cost of living, but quickly morphed into a broad-based protest movement against Bashir, who has ruled the country since he took power in 1989.