Two protesters in Sudan were shot dead by soldiers on Saturday, the country’s Central Medical Committee said.
The reported deaths occurred in Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, as hundreds of thousands marched through Khartoum to protest this week’s military coup, calling for a restoration of civilian rule, said Reuters witnesses.
The report came after the United Nations and the United States urged key Sudanese generals to exercise restraint and avoid confrontation as pro-democracy protesters began to pour into the streets.
Pro-democracy groups on Saturday called for mass protest marches across the country to demand the reestablishment of a deposed transitional government and the release of senior politicians.
The military takeover threatened Sudan’s fragile West-backed democratic transition that began more than two years ago.
In 2019, a popular uprising forced the dismissal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist-allied government after nearly three decades in power.
The UN special envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, met with General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo on Friday, a coup deemed close to Sudan’s strongman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
General Dagalo commands the dreaded Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary unit that controls the streets of the capital Khartoum and played a major role in the coup.
The RSF are known for the atrocities committed during the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur and for the deadly attacks on pro-democracy protesters in 2019.
Mr Perthes said in a Twitter message that he “stressed the need for calm, to allow peaceful protests and to avoid confrontation” during his talks with General Dagalo.
In a separate statement, Perthes said the UN transitional mission “is actively coordinating current mediation efforts to facilitate inclusive dialogue, which remains the only path to a peaceful solution to the current crisis”.
The protests are likely to increase pressure on the generals, who already face mounting condemnation from the United States and other Western countries for re-establishing a government led by civilians.
Jeffrey Feltman, the United States’ special envoy to the Horn of Africa, warned of violence against peaceful protesters during a phone call with General Burhan.
“The Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully this weekend, and the United States will be watching closely,” he said.
Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development, also warned of violence against protesters supporting Sudan’s democratic transition.
“Leaders around the world, including the United States, are saying very clearly to the military: the Sudanese people must be allowed to demonstrate peacefully,” she said on Twitter.
Since the military takeover, there have been daily demonstrations in the streets.
At least nine people were killed by gunfire from security forces, according to the Committee of Sudanese Doctors and Activists. At least 170 other people were injured, according to the UN.
General Burhan claimed the takeover was necessary to prevent a civil war, citing what he said were growing divisions between political groups.
However, the takeover came less than a month before he handed over the leadership of the Sovereign Council, the main decision-making body in Sudan, to a civilian.
Such a measure would have reduced the hold of the army on the country. The council had both civilian and military members.
As part of the coup, General Burhan sacked the council and the transitional government, headed by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was in charge of day-to-day affairs.
It has also imposed a state of emergency across the country and military authorities have largely cut internet and mobile phone services. – Associated Press