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How the crisis in Sudan unfolded from tripling of bread prices

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Agence France-Presse

This week’s deadly army crackdown on protesters in Sudan follows a building standoff between the ruling military and protesters demanding civilian rule.

The unrest started in December 2018, when citizens revolted against a tripling of the price of bread.

In April demonstrators launched a sit-in in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum to demand the departure of the regime of long-time president Omar al-Bashir.

He was ousted by the army a few days later, but the protesters remained in place in their thousands to press their demand for the military to cede power.

On Monday the army broke up the sit-in, launching a crackdown that has left more than 100 dead in three days.

Here is a summary of events leading up to the military’s move to end the long-running protest.

– Talks break down –
On May 20, after several breakthroughs, talks between the ruling military council and protest leaders deadlock over who should head a new governing body which should oversee a three-year transition to civilian rule.

Protest leaders insist a civilian must head the new sovereign council and that civilians should make up the majority of its members, proposals rejected by the ruling generals.

Islamist movements back the military in the hope it will keep sharia Islamic law in place since a 1989 coup.

On May 28-29, thousands of workers in both the public and private sectors strike across the country to pressure the military rulers.

– Saudi, Emirates, Egypt back military –
In late May, the head of the military council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, visits Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

As commander of the country’s ground forces, Burhan is reported to have coordinated the deployment of Sudanese troops within the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in 2015 in Yemen to support the government against Huthi rebels accused of links with Iran.

“During his visit to the Gulf the general was reminded of the situation in Libya and Yemen,” Mathieu Guidere, a professor at Paris-VIII University and specialist on the Arab world said.

That was the “result of a lack of determination of the part of the leaders.”

He said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief who took power in Egypt in 2013 following mass protests but is accused of running an ultra-repressive regime, has been held up as a role model to Burhan.

The three regional powers, Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabi, have thrown their weight behind the Sudanese military for fear of a repeat of the turbulence that followed the Arab Spring in several countries in 2011.

They are set on “maintaining the authoritarian status quo,” says Karim Bitar, an expert at the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

– Al Jazeera closed –
Qatar, however, a long-time ally of deposed Bashir but also a friend to Iran and involved in a bitter dispute with Saudi Arabia and its allies, has seen its influence in Sudan wane since the start of the crisis.

Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College in London, says that Burhan “has stronger ties to Abu Dhabi than Doha”.

On May 31, the military council closes down the Khartoum bureau of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, which regularly broadcasts footage of demonstrations.

There is no reason given for the order.

– Bloody crackdown –
On June 3, troops and paramilitaries move in on the protest camp outside the army HQ and disperse the thousands gathered there with force.

More than 100 have been killed and hundreds wounded since the start of the crackdown, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, close to the demonstrators.

Internet connectivity is disrupted.

A day later the military announces that all previous agreements with protest leaders on the transition are scrapped and that elections will be called “within a period not exceeding nine months”.

Protesters denounce a putsch.

In Khartoum and across the country, the Rapid Support Forces — paramilitaries with origins in the 16-year-old war in the western region of Darfur — are thought to have been behind the crackdown.

They are accused of atrocities, including attacks on hospitals.

The international community demands an end to the violence and resumption of dialogue.

– Mixed messages –
On June 5, as gunfire crackles across the capital, the army says it is open to negotiations “with no restriction”.

Protest leaders turn down the call for talks “with this TMC (Transitional Military Council) that kills people.”

Saudi Arabia expresses “great concern” at developments and calls for a resumption of dialogue.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is deputy chief of Sudan’s ruling military council, says the country will not be allowed to slip into “chaos”.

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