Tens of thousands of Sudanese flooded the streets of the capital of Khartoum and other cities Saturday to mark the 40th day since the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in. These "Justice First" marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the protests since December. Those demonstrations led to the military ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir in April.
The marches mark 40 days since the dispersal of the pro-democracy protesters' sit-in in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3. Protest organizers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown. Authorities, however, put the death toll at 61, including three security force members.
The marches came just over a week after massive demonstrations on June 30, when tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets in the biggest show of numbers in the uprising. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers. Saturday's marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC), which represents the protesters, planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement. African Union (AU) envoy Mohammed el-Hassan Labat originally said a meeting would take place Saturday night. But Ahmed Rabei, a spokesman for the SPA, said later the protest movement called for the talks to be postponed "for more consultations" within the FDFC on the deal.
While the military is widely seen as game changer in Sudan, angry civilians are not satisfied by the military leaders' decision over the future of their country. Sudan's longtime ruler al-Bashir's downfall through a military coup was the second time that a leader in the region has been forced out after mass demonstrations. It is important to recall that the army's intervention in the region has not resulted in democratic transitions as experienced in Egypt, where the army took control of both politics and the economy after a coup. The Sudanese regime remained safe during the Arab Spring that euphorically swept across the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the fall of autocrat presidents in the region.
In April, word of al-Bashir's overthrow initially set off cheering, dancing and singing in the streets by thousands of protesters, until they heard the official announcement from Defense Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf that the military would remain in charge. Protesters who were initially jubilant over word of the coup reacted by saying they will not end their nearly weeklong sit-in outside the military's headquarters in central Khartoum until a civilian transition government is formed. Faced with the growing frustration caused bu the coup, protesters dismissed the transitional military council as the "same old faces" from the old regime.