Photo : Radio Dabanga
Two were killed and 37 others were wounded on May 11 when soldiers opened fire at a demonstration outside the army HQ, demanding justice for the protesters slain in the massacre on June 3, 2019
On Wednesday, May 12, the attorney general of Sudan, Al-Hebir Taj Elsir, called on the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) to hand over the soldiers accused of shooting at the protest outside its headquarters on Tuesday. Led by the families of the victims of the massacre on June 3, 2019, the protesters were demanding the prosecution of its perpetrators. However, during these protests, Osman Ahmed and Mudasir Mukhtar died of bullet injuries and 37 others were wounded in the shooting.
The SAF, which according to the defense minister has the accused soldiers in its custody, had said in a statement in the early hours of Wednesday that it has set up a committee to investigate the shooting. It is yet to give an official response to the attorney general’s request for custody of the officer who gave the order to shoot. “We hope that there will be cooperation in handing over the accused and the weapons to investigate the case and the start of the trial,” Taj Elsir added.
“The Minister of Defense confirmed that the armed forces have arrested all the army personnel accused of shooting at the peaceful demonstrators before to hand over the perpetrators of the crime to be brought to justice within a few days,” read a government statement.
The statement was released following an emergency meeting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had convened with his top ministers, the attorney general and the director of General Intelligence Service (GIS), soon after the shooting at the protest late in the evening of May 11.
June 3 massacre
This protest on the 29 of Ramadan — the second year anniversary according to Islamic calendar of the massacre on June 3, 2019 — was held against the delay by the transitional government in investigating the killings of over 200 and holding the perpetrators accountable. Thousands of protesters, led by the Organization of the December Revolution Martyrs, forced their way past the soldiers deployed to stop them and demonstrated at the square.
At the time of the massacre the square was occupied by the main sit-demonstration of Sudan’s December Revolution which began in 2018.
Months of multiple protests and crackdowns had evolved into a mass demonstration of hundreds of thousands, occupying this square and virtually blockading the army’s HQ for five days, finally forcing it on April 11, 2019, to remove Omar al Bashir. Bashir had ruled Sudan as a dictator since he had come to power through a coup in 1990. However, the army then formed a military junta, which assumed power after placing Bashir under house arrest.
The protest movement refused to yield ground to military rule and held the square in larger numbers, demanding that the army give way to civilian rule. The sit-in demonstration here had continued on to its 58th day on June 3, 2019, when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), armed with gun-mounted pick-up trucks, surrounded the protesters occupying this square and opened fire. Many protesters were hacked to death and dumped in the Nile.
The RSF is a militia made up of the Janjaweed fighters from the nomadic Arab herdmen who were organized and armed by Bashir’s regime to commit an alleged genocide in Darfur, for which he was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The army — sections of whose lower ranks had previously protected the demonstration from an attack by Bashir’s intelligence forces — stood as mute spectators this time and allowed the massacre to proceed. Many cases of active participation of the army’s soldiers have also been documented. Over 200 died and many more hundreds were injured.
The international outrage which erupted, and the continued resistance of the Sudanese people by other means, imposed an enormous pressure on the army to seek an accommodation. The centrist political parties — which by then had diluted the original demands of the protest movement they claimed to represent and were seeking to compromise — reached a power sharing agreement with the army.
A joint civilian-military transitional government with a mandate to rule for 39 months before holding elections was formed in August 2019. General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo aka Hemeti, head of the RSF and the Deputy Chairman of the military junta, went on to become one of the most powerful members of this government. The highest body of the government, the sovereignty council, is chaired by the president of the military junta, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Among its many unfulfilled promises was that the massacre will be investigated and those who gave the orders will be punished. 76-year-old Nabil Adeeb, a prominent human rights lawyer, was appointed as the head of the committee which was tasked in September 2019 to conduct the investigation and press charges in three months. The deadline passed almost a year and a half ago.
Hemeti maintains that it was not the RSF, but rogue Islamist elements of the former regime wearing RSF uniforms bought from shops, who were involved in the massacre. However, given the scale of the operation — the large number of pick-up trucks and weapons involved, and the coordination demonstrated by the army and the police — few believe Hemeti’s version. It is reported that Adeeb is also toying with a similar theory, pinning the blame on Islamists of the former regime who supposedly actied with the support of other Islamist regimes in the Arab region.
Senior generals in powerful government positions accused of massacre
The Organization of the December Revolution Martyrs is unequivocal on who is to be blamed. Speaking on its behalf at the protest on May 11 against the failure of the government to hold the perpetrators accountable, the mother of Mohamed Matar, a 26-year-old killed in the June 3 massacre, accused Hemeti and his brother Abdelrahim Dagalo, the Deputy Commander of the RSF, of being the architects of the massacre.
Insisting on the dissolution of the RSF, she went on to call on “those responsible for the crime [..] to admit their involvement in the massacre to the Sudanese people” by the deadline of June 3 this year. Should this not be done, she went on to warn that the coming “June 3 will be the starting date for the escalation of actions demanding justice for the protestors killed.”
Following the attack on this demonstration, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) have called for the dissolution of the investigating committee led by Adeeb and the formation of a new panel which includes the families of the victims.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella body of trade unions which had spearheaded the December Revolution, called for an international commission to be formed to investigate the massacre under supervision of the ICC.
The political fallout of the shooting at this demonstration, demanding justice for the slain protesters, has imposed an immense pressure on the civilian political parties which had gone along with the military rulers in the transitional government, and subsequently joined the controversial Transitional Partners Council (TPC). The TPC was formed on December 1, 2019, to accommodate into a governing body the armed rebels with whom the transitional government reached a power sharing agreement in October 2020.
This body was constituted of six military members, including the Dagalo brothers accused of the massacre, alongside nine members from the armed groups which will now be integrated into the national defense forces. Only the remaining 14 seats are allocated to representatives of the political parties. This move is seen by the critics as an attempt by the military elite to further concentrate power and undermine the original agreement which envisioned a civilian-dominated legislature to counter the power of the military.
The Nasserist Democratic Unionists Party, which had gone along with the army’s agenda, withdrew itself from the TPC after condemning the shooting. The Sudanese Congress Party withdrew its chairperson, Omar El Dekheir, from the TPC. Placing the responsibility on the governor of Khartoum, the attorney general, defense minister and the interior affairs minister, the SCoP also pulled its two ministers out of the government.
The centrist National Umma Party (NUP) admonished the security forces for failing to “comprehend the requirements of the democratic transformation. They need to be restructured in a way so that they contribute to the glorious revolution, preserve public rights and freedoms, and apply the law to the fullest.”
Reiterating its consistent refusal of any power-sharing arrangement with the military and calling for the formation of a “fully civilian government”, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), deemed it “a crime committed in cold blood, previously agreed on, for which the military and civilian sides in the government and the governor of Khartoum bear full responsibility.”