The impasse over Sudan’s political future deepened Tuesday as pro-democracy activists rejected a plan by military leaders to hold elections within nine months.
Tension in the streets of the capital, Khartoum, remained high a day after security forces stormed the activists’ main protest site outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum, breaking up an eight-week-old sit-in and killing at least 35 people.
Journalist Mangu Ugale in Sudan said the pro-military Rapid Support Forces militia — which carried out Monday’s attack — is now guarding government installations and keeping civilians away from the buildings.
Normal life in the capital is paralyzed, he said.
“So on the street you could see a lot of gathering. Young people especially are gathering on the junctions and on the main streets … just to try to monitor the situation, how it goes,” Ugale told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. is watching the situation “with great and increasing concern.”
“We again remind the Transitional Military Council of its duty to ensure the security and safety of citizens in Sudan and urge all parties to act with utmost restraint,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters Tuesday. “It’s very important excessive force not be used.”
The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the situation in Sudan Tuesday during a closed-door session at the request of Britain and Germany.
Next steps uncertain
Monday’s raid capped a breakdown of relations between the military and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an alliance of protesters and opposition parties.
In a televised address Tuesday, the head of the ruling Transitional Military Council said the council was canceling its previous agreement to form an interim government with the FFC.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said a new government will immediately be formed and will rule until elections are held within the next nine months.
A spokesman for the Sudanese Professional Association — the leader of Sudan’s recent pro-democracy protests — quickly rejected that plan.
“We have no choice but to continue our protests and civil disobedience until the fall of the military council,” Mohammed Yousef al-Musfafa told the Associated Press.
Protest groups and opposition parties have been demanding that the Transitional Military Council, which took power after the army overthrew longtime-president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, hand power to a civilian-led authority.
Talks on the proposed interim government broke down over which side would have ultimate decision-making authority.
The Sudanese Professionals Association accused security forces of carrying out a "massacre" outside the Defense Ministry on Monday.
With batons in hand, Sudanese forces in police and military uniforms surrounded the protesters and began forcing them to leave. Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard, and video on several media outlets showed Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground.
Protesters say the Rapid Support Forces and paramilitary units also surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.
Witnesses say by mid-afternoon on Monday, the protest site had been cleared.
The top U.S. diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, condemned what he called the brutal and coordinated attack and said any future government in Sudan must include the main opposition coalition.
Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din al-Kabashi said the forces only targeted what he called “dangerous groups” that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.
General Burhan said the military will investigate Monday's violence, but he blamed protest leaders for prolonging the crisis by refusing to come to an agreement on an interim government.