Sudanese celebrate uprising anniversary, demand justice for victims

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people marched in cities across Sudan on Thursday to celebrate the first anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and demand justice for people killed in protests.

Waving national flags and chanting slogans, marchers vowed to press on with the political transition that stemmed from the protests that began on Dec. 19 last year in the city of Atbara, and led to the military deposing Bashir on April 11.

“Revolutionaries, revolutionaries! We will complete the journey!” thousands chanted in Freedom Square, which protesters took over in the capital Khartoum in July and where Bashir held a big rally in his last months in power.

Others chanted: “Our martyrs have not died, they live with the revolutionaries!”

Repeating a rallying cry for justice for those killed when security forces opened fire to end a sit-in this year near the Defense Ministry headquarters and Bashir’s residence, they shouted: “Blood for blood, we won’t accept blood money!”

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A Sudanese court on Saturday convicted Bashir on corruption charges and sentenced him to two years of detention in a reform facility, the first ruling against the former president.

Some protesters waved posters of Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s civilian prime minister who heads a technocratic government.

“Hamdok represents me,” the signs said.

But the authorities now governing under a three-year power-sharing agreement between the military and former opposition and protest groups are under pressure to do more to address economic and political problems, restore the rule of law and protect human rights.

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“On the first anniversary of the revolution, we reaffirm the continuation of [our] covenant with the Sudanese people, and we will not deviate from the demand for freedom, peace and justice,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, which was the main protest group during the uprising, said on Twitter.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it was now “time to deliver” on human rights.

“The responsibility on Prime Minister Hamdok’s shoulders is as large as the aspirations of the Sudanese people who suffered decades of serious human rights violations, and crimes under international law including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa.

“The victims have the right to truth, justice and reparations under international law,” he said.

The public prosecutor’s office said on Thursday it was investigating more than 400 corruption cases and that it was committed to investigating “all those who committed violations and all those who wasted the blood of martyrs”.

The statement said cases have been opened from 1989, the year Bashir seized power in a coup, through to June 30, 2019.

Writing by Yousef Saba, Editing by Timothy Heritage