In the suburbs of Khartoum, barricades become symbols of protest


CHAMBAT (Sudan) – In t-shirts and jeans, young protesters throw bricks on the ground and hastily climb a barricade in the middle of an avenue on the outskirts of Khartoum, before escaping on arrival riot police on board pickup.

The men in blue fatigues fire several shots in the air. Young people have already left the streets of Chambat, a popular neighborhood in the north of the capital.

The police come down from their vehicles and begin to clear the road, by hand and then with an excavator. Sacks and rubbish are burned to prevent them from being used by protesters.

Later, once the police forces left, the young people will go up the barricades.

With the "general strike", these barricades have become the symbol of the"civil disobedience"observed from Sunday in Sudan, at the call of the leaders of the protest, to protest against the Transitional Military Council.In power since the removal of Omar al-Bashir on April 11, these generals refuse to give the reins from the country to civilians.

Nearly two months after the overthrow of the ex-dictator by the army, the standoff between the protest and the generals took a tragic turn with the brutal screed that hit the protesters this week.

This wave of repression left at least 118 dead according to the protest -61 according to the government – and hundreds of wounded, mostly during the bloody dispersion of a sit-in of protesters in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum.

– "Cat and mouse"-

The police presence has flooded the avenues of the capital since. Banks, pharmacies, restaurants, hairdressers or even clothing stores, the overwhelming majority of businesses had left their iron curtain down Sunday.

Various reasons given to explain these closures: the participation in the general strike, the fear of violence, the impossibility to get to work because of barricades …

In a small street, young people try to close the entrance of a path by laying bricks and all kinds of objects.

"We closed this street at night. (Security forces) came and fired bullets in the air", says one of them to AFP, Khaled Abu Bakr.They opened the way, we closed it, they reopened, we closed it again. It's a cat and mouse game", quips this 20-year-old mechanical engineering student.

"These barricades are not personal. The first objective of these barriers is that no one goes to work. If we did not make them, people would go as if nothing had happened", assures the young man.

Behind him, his acolytes chant "power to civilians", one of the key words of the popular uprising.

– "No other way"-

A white car stops in front of the barricade. Faced with the protestors' refusal to let him pass, the driver descends calmly. "At first it pissed me off. On one side, these barricades are annoying", says Islam Zakaria, continuing his walk.

"But people express what is inside of them in this way. I think young people have no other way to say that things have to change", adds the 42-year-old man, dressed in a traditional white ensemble.

For power, these brick installers sow the "chaosThe Deputy Chief of the Military Council, the dreaded Mohamad Hamdan Daglo, nicknamed "Hemeidti", called on the Sudanese to cooperate with the security forces in removing the barricades of fortune.

Chief of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), accused by the protest of being the main perpetrators of the repression, "Hemeidti"also accused the"civil disobedience"to harm the daily life of citizens.

Accused of being "a new version"Darfur militias, the RSF were almost absent Sunday morning in Chambat, but many convoys were seen in other parts of Khartoum.

In cap and small beard, Fayez Abdallah is not convinced by the speech of the authorities. The 18-year-old is one of the last in a long row in front of a Chambat bakery.

"These long queues are not new in Sudan but date back to the beginning of the bread crisis, the one that pushed people into the streets", he said to AFP in a quiet tone.

In the distance, in front of a barricade, a driver fromriksha"These motor tricycles who act as taxis, try to force the passage.A young man with a long stick goes to him looking angry.

The other protesters quickly master him and prevent him from hitting. The leaders of the protest insisted: disobedience must remain peaceful.


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