Internet shutdowns in Sudan complicate civil disobedience campaign against coup

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Protesters carry a banner and national flags as they march against the recent takeover of power by the Sudanese army and the overthrow of the civilian government, through the streets of the capital Khartoum, Sudan, on October 30, 2021. REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin / File Photo

  • Activists launch two days of civil disobedience
  • Hindered by internet disruptions, cell phones
  • Police use tear gas in several locations – witnesses
  • Military chief meets Arab League delegation
  • Main rebel leaders reject coup

KHARTOUM, Nov. 7 (Reuters) – Sudanese pro-democracy groups launched two days of civil disobedience and strike on Sunday to protest against last month’s military coup, though attendance appeared to be limited by interruptions in Internet and telephone connections.

A sign of the coup’s potential to undo efforts to end decades of internal conflict, the rebel armed factions that signed a peace deal last year rejected the coup and called for an end state of emergency.

Local resistance committees and the Association of Sudanese Professionals (SPA), which led protests in an uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, are organizing a campaign of protests and barricades in an attempt to reverse the military takeover.

People had taken to the streets in the center of the capital, Khartoum on Sunday, although there was less traffic than usual, residents said.

Teachers’ union said security forces used tear gas in Khartoum state education ministry building to break up sit-in to oppose any surrender to named military personnel . Some 87 people were arrested, the statement said.

In several areas in eastern Khartoum, across the river in the Ombada neighborhood of Omdurman, police also used tear gas to disperse protests, eyewitnesses said. On a main street in Khartoum, plainclothes security forces were seen alongside police, they said.

Demonstrations also took place in the towns of Medani, Nyala and Atbara, where hundreds of people protested against the return of Bashir worshipers to the local government, eyewitnesses said.

INTERNET INTERRUPTION

Some hospitals and medical staff in Khartoum were working normally while others were on strike.

“A number of people were unaware of the call for civil disobedience because of the Internet shutdown,” said a resident of central Khartoum who asked not to be identified.

Internet services have been almost completely disrupted since the October 25 coup and phone coverage remains spotty. Although everyday life almost came to a halt after the takeover, shops, roads and some banks have since reopened.

The coup put an end to a power-sharing deal between the military and civilians that was agreed to after Bashir’s overthrow and that was to lead to democratic elections by the end of 2023.

High-ranking civilians, including several ministers, were arrested and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest.

Since then, mediation efforts involving the United Nations have sought the release of detainees and a return to power sharing, but ousted government sources say those efforts have stalled. Read more

Since Bashir was overthrown, Sudan had emerged from decades of isolation and internal wars. A peace deal signed last year with rebel groups aimed to end several of these long-standing conflicts.

The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, which said it rejected the coup, includes rebel groups led by three men who had served on a military-civilian ruling council dissolved during the seizure: Elhadi Idris and Altahir Hajar of Darfur and Malik Agar from the south of the SPLM-N. .

Two other major rebel groups that did not sign the peace agreement also rejected the coup. Some signatories to the peace agreement, including leaders of Darfur rebel groups Jibril Ibrahim and Minni Minawi, aligned themselves with the army in the weeks leading up to the coup.

On Sunday, an Arab League delegation met with Hamdok and the army’s commander-in-chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The delegation stressed the importance of dialogue to return to a civil-military partnership, she said in a statement.

Campaigners demanding that the military exit policy announced a calendar of protests leading to mass rallies on November 13, under the slogan “No negotiation, no partnership, no compromise”.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets against the military regime in two massive protests before and after the October 25 coup.

Western powers have suspended economic aid to Sudan and say relief of tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt is threatened unless there is a return to democratic transition.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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