This article is over 3 months old
Peaceful rallies held across Sudan as nation comes to terms with former President Omar al-Bashir’s exit
Huge crowds have gathered across Sudan to protest President Omar al-Bashir’s departure in a quiet snap election to end a political crisis triggered by the uprising.
Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, was elected to a fifth term in office at a vote he called in defiance of the constitution.
Even so, the vote was held last month in the capital, Khartoum, and a few other cities to reduce tensions after 12 months of street protests demanding Bashir quit.
Asheley Alwan, a student, said: “The people are still proud of the revolution and we are saying ‘you do not steal the revolution’.”
Sudanese people march in Cairo to show support for protesters’ ‘rule by people’ Read more
The protests swept across the country in February and March last year after Bashir announced a bid for new terms. Security forces broke up the demonstrations with bullets and teargas.
International pressure mounted on the country’s security services to release political prisoners, but demonstrations continued in cities such as El Geneina, a former opposition stronghold in the Nile Delta.
The security services used teargas on crowds in El Geneina on Monday, although the protest was overwhelmingly peaceful, witnesses said.
Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 military coup, is expected to serve out his remaining two terms. Under Sudan’s constitution, he will have to step down next year.
A banner held by protesters. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
But protesters and their leaders have stressed that the protests only demand Bashir step down and not the end of the government, which they have called a “conspiracy”.
Underlining the sectarian dimension of the unrest, Bilel Margernauth, an opposition figure and civil society activist who has campaigned for more inclusive politics, said: “A lot of the leaderless youth movement is from Darfur or Nuba [region].”
Darfuris largely support the youth protests, but many are from Nuba who have been displaced by the violence of the western region, in which tens of thousands have died.
A Sudanese official told journalists that the forthcoming elections were going to be “fair” and “free” and that there would be no attacks on polling stations.
The Sudanese Communist party issued a statement declaring Bashir’s “restriction”, and called for peaceful protesters to stand in a 1 October demonstration.
Bashir loyalists used social media to congratulate him on his victory. The al-Bashir Organisation of Professionals, an umbrella group of business elites that backed him last year, called the election a success that “honours the popular will”.
High turnout was reported in North Darfur state where security forces were deployed to ensure a peaceful vote.
Sudan is sensitive to protests: in the past three decades it has been struck by violent campaigns for power, jobs and political freedom.