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KHARTOUM: Sudanese doctors demonstrated on Sunday against violent attacks by security forces targeting medical personnel at pro-democracy rallies following last year’s military coup.
“During each demonstration, they fire tear gas inside the hospital where I work,” said a doctor, Houda Ahmad, during the rally in Khartoum.
“They even attack us inside the intensive care unit,” she added at the rally, where medical staff carried pictures of colleagues they said had been killed.
The protest was the latest in the crisis-hit northeast African country, where protesters from the north also blocked roads to express their anger over an electricity price hike announced last week, and which has since been frozen.
Sudan’s October 25 coup led by military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule, which began with the 2019 ouster of strongman Omar Al -Bashir following mass youth-led protests.
The military takeover sparked an international outcry and sparked a new wave of street protests, with another rally scheduled for Monday.
During the turmoil of recent months, Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok was detained and then reinstated, but later resigned, warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its own “survival”.
Deadly crackdowns have claimed the lives of 64 protesters, according to pro-democracy doctors. A police general was also killed in street violence that rocked Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries.
The United Nations World Health Organization said last week there had been 11 confirmed attacks on Sudanese health facilities since November.
The WHO said it was “also aware of the interception of ambulances, medical personnel and patients as they attempted to seek safety”.
He called for the attacks to “stop now”, stressing that they threaten needed health services more than ever during the Covid pandemic.
Covid-19 is a “serious threat” to Sudan, where 94% of the population has not been vaccinated, the WHO said.
Sudan has confirmed 93,973 coronavirus infections and around 4,000 deaths. In September, he said 64% of the roughly 1,000 health workers tested had tested positive for Covid.
Sudan’s 45 million people are also facing a severe economic crisis and inflation approaching 400%.
On Sunday, hundreds of people blocked key roads in the Northern Province, 350 kilometers (229 miles) from the capital, angered by recent news that electricity prices would double – a move that was later frozen, but not officially abolished.
“No vehicle will pass until the authorities have canceled this increase, because it signs the death certificate of our agriculture,” protester Hassan Idriss told AFP by telephone.
The protests that led to Bashir’s ousting in 2019 began after the government decided to triple the price of bread.
During recent protests, Sudan has also often shut down the internet and decided to limit reporting on the unrest.
In the latest move, he revoked the license of Al Jazeera Mubasher, the Qatar-based network’s live television unit, accusing it of “unprofessional” coverage of the protests, the channel said.
The United Nations is now seeking to organize talks involving political, military and social actors to resolve the crisis.
UN Special Representative Volker Perthes announced the nomination last week, saying it was “time to end the violence and start a comprehensive consultative process”.
The dominant faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change, the main civilian pro-democracy group, said on Sunday it would accept the offer of dialogue if it were to revive the transition to civilian rule.
In April 2019, the Sudanese military ended Bashir’s three-decade rule, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of the autocrat and many regime officials.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
A former foreign minister imprisoned under Bashir, Ibrahim Ghandour, has started a hunger strike along with several former regime officials, his family said on Sunday.
They will end it “until they are released or brought before an impartial tribunal,” his family said in a statement.
The prosecution had recently ordered the release of several former officials, but Burhan instead ordered that they remain in custody.
Ghandour’s family denounced “interference in judicial affairs”.
The protest movement, however, accuses Burhan, who was the commander of Bashir’s ground forces, of having helped figures from the old regime to return to power.