Protesters cut roads amid tensions in Sudan

CAIRO (AP) — Pro-army protesters briefly blocked major roads and bridges in Sudan’s capital Sunday amid rising tensions between the generals and the pro-democracy movement that fueled the uprising against former autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, had met the day before with military and civilian leaders in Khartoum to seek a deal.

Deteriorating relations between the military and civilians in the interim government threatened Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy after the military deposed Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019, following nearly three decades of autocratic rule.

The current crisis stems from a coup attempt last month. Authorities attributed the attempt to people loyal to Al-Bashir. But the generals criticized the civilian side of the government and accused politicians of seeking government positions rather than helping to ease people’s economic hardships.

General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, said dissolving the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok could resolve the political crisis. That suggestion was rejected by hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters, who took to the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country on Thursday.

The generals’ accusations have sparked fears among civilians that the military could thwart the country’s transition to civilian rule.

Pro-army protesters marched in Khartoum this month and have since held a sit-in in front of the presidential palace. Last week they tried to storm the seat of government as the prime minister was meeting with his government. Security forces dispersed them with tear gas.

Dozens of pro-army protesters flooded the lobby at the state news agency’s headquarters on Saturday and set tires on fire outside the building.

Protesters blocked important roads and bridges on Sunday, according to activist and rights defender Tahani Abbas. That caused traffic jams on Sunday morning, the first day of the work week in the country.

“What’s happening … it is an official coup d’état sponsored by Burhan,” he said. Abbas shared images of protesters who had blocked a bridge and prevented buses with passengers and other vehicles from passing.

Security forces later dispersed protesters with tear gas to reopen the cut streets.

The tensions came just weeks before the scheduled rotation of leadership in the sovereign council, which would pass power from the military to civilians, according to the constitutional declaration that formed the joint government in August 2019.

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