Khartoum – Seven people were killed and 2,496 arrested during peaceful anti-government protests in Sudan over the weekend, state-run media reported Monday, citing the country’s interior minister.
Bushara Aror told parliament that 15 civilians had also been injured, as well as 42 members of the security forces, according to state-run news agency SUNA.
Protests against the rule of long-time President Omar al-Bashir, meanwhile, continued in the capital of Khartoum, with tens of thousands of people staging a sit-in at the army headquarters on Monday.
Some witnesses, including a dpa reporter, put the number of demonstrators at close to 1 million people.
In the presence of heavily armed security forces and riot police, protesters were chanting slogans to encourage the army to help them overthrow al-Bashir’s government. Some held placards that read: “The army and the people are one” and “One army is unity.”
Earlier on Monday, security forces unsuccessfully tried to disperse demonstrators by using tear gas, but the army stepped in to protect the protesters, the reporter said.
Security forces injured three soldiers and several civilians, an army official told dpa on condition of anonymity.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres entreated all those involved to exercise restraint and avoid violence. He said the UN stands ready to support any efforts to peacefully resolve the country’s crisis, according to a statement from his spokesman.
Guterres also called for “full respect for human rights, including the freedom of assembly, the freedom of expression, and the release of detained protestors.”
The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) had called for widespread rallies and a march on the army headquarters on Saturday, the 34th anniversary of the 1985 uprising that toppled the then-government of president Gaafar Nimeiry.
The military removed Nimeiry before handing over power to an elected government, which in turn was overthrown by al-Bashir in a coup in 1989.
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 an economic crisis while also battling several rebel groups.