Young Sudanese workers strike for 'civil rule'

2019-05-30 22:00
Sudanese protesters gather during a demonstration outside the Central Bank in Khartoum. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)

Sudanese protesters gather during a demonstration outside the Central Bank in Khartoum. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)

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The chants grew louder as the army pick-up passed. "Power to the civilians," the dozens of young Sudanese bankers cried outside their closed Khartoum branch, heeding a protest group's calls for a general strike.

In unison, the young men and women called on the head of Sudan's new military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to "cede power".

Burhan took Sudan's helm in April when the army overthrew long-time leader Omar al-Bashir after months of countrywide protests against his iron-fisted rule.

"They make us promises but we haven't received anything, so we chose to up the revolutionary pressure," said 27-year-old banker Sara Ossman, wearing a light-blue veil to match her glasses.

Flanked by colleagues on either side, she bounces her attention between the voice-straining protest chants and her smart-phone screen, updating a full-array of social media accounts.

'Flourish'

"Military power represses freedom of opinion, expression... all freedoms," said Ossman, who grew up under Bashir's regime.

"It's been 30 years that the country has lived like this."

With the backing of Islamists, Bashir ruled the country for three decades.

But almost two months after his ouster, his generals still remain despite pressure from protesters who have been camped outside the army headquarters in Khartoum calling for civilian rule.

Leaders of the nationwide uprising called for a general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday after talks stalled with the military over a transfer of power to a civilian-led body.

"As young people in particular, we want to flourish, to build a new Sudan," said Moussa al-Haj.

The slender 26-year-old also works at a bank, but says it has "no cash".

Resentment has mounted in Sudan for years over an economic crisis marked by sky-high inflation and foreign currency shortages.

Government austerity measures provoked the first string of protests in December when it tripled the price of bread.

Those demonstrations quickly spiralled into a country-wide protest movement, drawing in broad swathes of society including doctors, lawyers and dentists.

But not everyone has joined in.

'A tough dictatorship'

Throughout the capital on Tuesday, many storefronts drew their iron-shutters just halfway closed.

At one tour operator, two young employees peer out of their semi-closed shop as a group of striking protesters outside chants for change.

They said they too were on strike but were ordered not to protest or speak to the press.

At the head of the group, Asmaa Mohamed films the scene with her phone.

"I went to the office before coming here. I refuse to work today and tomorrow," said the 28-year-old, wearing a long red dress.

"We don't want a government of thieves who exploit the country," she said, her eyes glued to the screen.

Buses and cars beep as they whizz by the group carrying women and men flashing the V-for-victory sign out of the windows.

"We had a very tough dictatorship. We don't want to relive this experience," said 29-year-old Abir Abdallah.

"Freedom, justice... all that will only happen with a civilian government. The military doesn't want it."

A different group of youths was stationed outside Khartoum's central bank, but they weren't chanting. The soldiers were in place to prevent pro-strike demonstrations.

At the same time, employees from the national electricity company arrived on the scene to protest the strike.

"If we stop work, the country will be wiped out," said 45-year-old Ezzedine Ali, who told AFP he backs a military-led political transition before pealing off to join in on the rally.

"No to the strike, no to civil disobedience," they shouted.

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Read more on:    sudan  |  north africa
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