Protesters in cities across Sudan demanded faster implementation of long-delayed reforms Monday, the anniversary of a power-sharing agreement between civilians and the military.
Large crowds in the capital, Khartoum, called for justice and peace before security forces dispersed them with tear gas, reported the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The Sudanese military ousted longtime leader Omar al-Bashir from the presidency in April 2019 after months of protests. In July 2019, the Transitional Military Council signed a deal with civilian protesters represented by the Forces of Freedom and Change coalition. Protesters say the agreed-to reforms have not been made.
"We came to demonstrate to put pressure on the government to speed up the reforms, because after a year, we're not satisfied," Mohammad Omar, a 20-year-old student, told AFP.
An agreement in August 2019, known as the constitutional declaration, created a joint military-civilian council and established a council with members appointed by the civilian activist coalition. The government was supposed to form a legislative body within three months, but that has not happened.
"The political parties did not have a long-term vision. They were in a rush to reach a deal," political activist Mohammed Ogeil told Al Jazeera. "They lacked a national spirit and went into negotiations based on the interests of their own respective parties and leaders. Now, it's difficult for them to lead in the interests of the people at heart."
Protesters also called for a peace deal with rebels in Darfur and elsewhere, both a key demand for demonstrators and a priority for the government. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok launched peace talks last fall. Sudan's state news agency SUNA reported that a deal is expected Aug. 28.
Despite the progress, Hamdok angered demonstrators Monday when he sent an envoy to speak in his place.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led the original anti-Bashir protests and helped in negotiations with the military, criticized the "unacceptable" move in a statement on Twitter.
تجمعُ المهنيّين السودانيين— تجمع المهنيين السودانيين (@AssociationSd) August 17, 2020
في مسلك غير مقبول قامت رئاسة مجلس الوزراء بإرسال أحد موظفيها لاستقبال مواكب جرد الحساب معتذرًا بانشغال رئيس الوزراء، وحين عبّر الثوار عن رفضهم للتصرف تدخلت قوات من الشرطة والقوات النظامية باستخدام العنف ومحاولات تفريق المواكب.#مليونية17اغسطس
The group said when protesters refused the envoy, security forces used violence to break up the crowd.
"In light of this provocation and aggression by the security services, the options for escalation remain open and are evaluated," the SPA said.
كان على رئيس الوزراء وطاقمه التحلي بفضيلة الاستماع لمن أتوا بهم إلى مواقع المسؤولية، بل ومخاطبتهم بما يستجيب لمطالبهم؛ إزاء هذا الاستفزاز والتعدي من الأجهزة الأمنية تبقى خيارات التصعيد مفتوحة ويجري تقييمها عبر تنسيقيات لجان المقاومة، وسيُعلن عنها فور الاتفاق على الخطوات.— تجمع المهنيين السودانيين (@AssociationSd) August 17, 2020
In a statement on Twitter, Hamdok called for reform.
"The state apparatus needs to be rebuilt, and the legacy of (the old regime) needs to be dismantled, and the civil service needs to be modernized and developed to become unbiased between citizens, as well as effective," he wrote.
جهاز الدولة يحتاج الي إعادة بناء وتركة التمكين تحتاج إلى تفكيك والخدمة المدنية تحتاج لتحديث وتطوير ليصبح محايد بين المواطنات والمواطنين وخدمي وفاعل...— Abdalla Hamdok (@SudanPMHamdok) August 17, 2020
In line with the constitutional declaration, elections are due in Sudan in October 2022.
Last week, a trial for Bashir over the military coup that brought him to power three decades ago was delayed at the request of his lawyers. If convicted for the 1989 overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Sadek al-Mahdi, Bashir and the other defendants could face the death penalty, AFP reported.
Leslie Bonilla contributed to this report.