Demonstrators rally in Khartoum to mourn dozens of demonstrators killed last month. Ashraf Shazly/AFP
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, and a protest leader said a planned a meeting with the country's ruling generals to sign a power-sharing deal was postponed until Sunday.
The "Justice First" marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals' Association, which has been spearheading the protests since December. Those demonstrations led to the military ouster of autocratic 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 organisers 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.
Protesters have called for a "transparent and fair" investigation into the deaths. "The military council should be held accountable (for) the massacre," said protester Samer Hussein.
Footage and photos posted by the SPA showed thousands of people demonstrating in the capital and its sister city of Omdurman. There were protests in other places, including the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and the eastern province of Kassala.
“Protest organisers 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.
Protesters were seen waving Sudanese flags and posters that read: "Freedom, Peace and Justice" and "Civilian (authority) is the people's choice."
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 organisers.Saturday's marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement. African Union 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 until Sunday "for more consultations" within the FDFC on the deal.
The state-run SUNA news agency however reported that both sides would meet late Saturday. SUNA quoted a statement by the military council as saying that they would discuss the "constitutional document" with the FDFC in their meeting in a luxury Khartoum hotel.
Labat, the AU envoy, and Mahmoud Dirir, Ethiopia's envoy, met with the military council. Then Labat told reporters the meeting was postponed to Sunday.
The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays have been announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement's details.
The latest developments came as the prosecutor general's office said ousted president Omar Al Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule last month.
Sudanese demonstrators are expected to stage a “million-strong” march on Thursday to press for a civilian administration after talks with military rulers hit a snag.
Heavily armed security forces in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns were deployed in large numbers all around the capital, while gunshots were heard from the protest site by an AFP journalist.
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In a statement to 'Nation Shield,' the UAE Armed Forces magazine, on the occasion of Commemoration Day, Sheikh Mohamed paid tribute to the nation's martyrs who "are like the stars that illuminate our present and future with the noblest values and meanings and urge us to give more for the sake of the homeland."