KHARTOUM, SUDAN - Piled onto the roof of a train or packed inside, hundreds of protesters from the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir rolled into Khartoum on Tuesday to support activists demanding that the military relinquish power to civilians.
About 4,000 protesters, many of them waving Sudan’s green, red, black and white flag, greeted them at Khartoum’s main station as the train arrived from Atbara.
Sudanese activists were holding nationwide protests on Tuesday to press the military to hand over power to a civilian authority after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.
Railway workers and other protesters gathered in Atbara, the northern transport hub where the uprising began in December, and traveled by train to the capital to join tens of thousands outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, where protesters have kept up a sit-in since April 6.
Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, was forced from office on April 11 after four months of protests led by the
Demonstrators began a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry compound on April 6, five days before the military announced Bashir’s removal.
It has continued as protesters push for a swift handover to civilian rule and the number of demonstrators has swelled in recent days.
Two witnesses said authorities attempted to disperse the sit-in about midday. They used loaders to try to take down the roadblocks and barriers put up by protesters, but were chased away by demonstrators, witnesses said.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), the main protest organizer, also said security forces had attempted to disperse the sit-in. The group encouraged protesters to put up more barriers and keep protesting.
“We call on everyone to go to the sit-in in anticipation of any other attempt and to welcome the Atbara revolutionaries who are on their way to the sit-in,” the SPA said.
Tensions are rising between Sudan's military and protesters who have held a weeks-long sit-in around army headquarters in Khartoum. The protesters have vowed to stay until the country returns to civilian rule.
Sudan's transitional military council on Monday warned protesters it plans to clear the streets around the defense ministry.
Dozens of journalists marched toward the sit-in on Tuesday and dozens of teachers also planned to join.
Villagers from northern Khartoum brought livestock to slaughter and feed the protesters.
State news agency SUNA said that Transitional Military Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had told the BBC that the council would never use violence against the protesters.
Protest leaders in Sudan are urging their followers to continue a sit-in Tuesday aimed at forcing the new military rulers to hand over power to a civilian government.
The Sudanese Professional Association, which is leading the mass protests, had called for a march in Khartoum on Tuesday, followed by a mass rally on Thursday.
Protests in Sudan were sparked in December by an attempt to raise bread prices amid a deepening economic crisis, quickly turning against Bashir’s 30-year rule and spreading to cities.
Atbara, about 290 km (180 miles) northeast of the capital, is a railway hub with a large population of rail workers. It has historically been known as the hotbed of opposition unions and unrest.