Sudan’s military said on Thursday it will make an “important” statement, leading to speculation a coup may be underway, following months of anti-government protests.
Thousands of Sudanese poured onto the streets of Khartoum in early celebration of what many thinks could be the end of President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
A military source said that tanks had surrounded al-Bashir’s office, and witnesses said some key bridges leading into the capital were blocked off.
Soldiers were seen raising their hands in a sign of solidarity with the people, with some civilians riding along with soldiers in army vehicles.
There were signs soldiers might be on the side of the demonstrators earlier this week, with witness reports saying that members of the army had sided with demonstrators against other security forces.
The state-run news agency, SUNA, reported that political prisoners were being released from jails.
Protesters were dancing and singing patriotic songs and shouting slogans such as “new era, a new nation.”
A range of people turned out to celebrate, including the elderly and children, as well as women – many of whom have been vocal protesters.
“Dear audience, the Sudanese army will present an important statement,” the army said in a radio broadcast early on Thursday.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the groups that have been driving the protests, issued a statement urging people to head to the army headquarters and continue the sit-in which began over the weekend.
Months of protests galvanised the enormous sit-in, now in its sixth day, with demonstrators camped outside the Sudanese army headquarters, which also includes the president’s residence.
The peaceful protests have turned bloody in recent days, with a Sudanese Doctor’s Organisation, reporting 21 deaths.
The U.S. and Britain have called on Sudan’s authorities to respond to the demands of the tens of thousands of demonstrators and avoid violence.
The East African nation has seen ongoing protests since December 2018, when a sharp hike in bread and fuel prices caused a public outcry.
The oil-rich country’s economy was badly affected when it split with South Sudan in 2011, and the government is currently facing another economic crisis while also battling several rebel groups.
President al-Bashir is sought by the International Criminal Court for severe human rights violations in the Darfur region.
Bashir, a former paratrooper, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, has been a divisive figure, who has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the West to weaken him.
Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993 when the U.S. added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring militants.
Washington followed up with sanctions four years later. (dpa/NAN)