Sudanese soldiers monitor a rally in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum. Thousands have been camping outside the complex housing Al Bashir’s official residence. Image Credit: AFP

Khartoum: Thousands of Sudanese protesters pressed on with their campaign against President Omar Al Bashir’s rule for a fifth day outside the army headquarters in the capital on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Crowds of demonstrators continued to throng the sprawling complex through the night, singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs, witnesses said.

“The night passed peacefully without any incident,” said a protester who had spent the entire night at the complex.

“We believe that the support from the soldiers on the ground and now the police is definitely growing.”

Demonstrators have braved regular volleys of tear gas from members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service since they began camping at the army headquarters on April 6, protest organisers say.

But for the first time they did not face any “threat” from security agents during the night, said the protester who did not want to be named for security reasons.

“The soldiers at the complex are also angry after the attacks of tear gas and are determined to prevent them,” another demonstrator told AFP.

Witnesses said the troops had stationed several vehicles loaded with machine-guns at the gates of the complex.

On Tuesday security agents had to abort their bids to disperse the crowds when soldiers fired gunshots in the air to counter incoming volleys of tear gas from security agents.

“It seems the police too are now with us,” said the protester.

“When we were coming to the army building last night we saw many policemen but they did not stop us.”

The police on Tuesday ordered its personnel to avoid intervening against the demonstrators.

“We call on God to preserve the security and calm of our country ... and to unite the Sudanese people... for an agreement which would support the peaceful transition of power,” a police spokesman said in a statement.

On Wednesday protesters were raising funds to ensure a regular supply of food and water for the crowd.

“Many shop owners and businessmen have offered us free supplies,” said another demonstrator.

Protest organisers launched their latest campaign on April 6 as part of a months-long movement against Al Bashir’s 30-year rule.

How did protests start? ...Bread protests

Hundreds take to the streets in central Atbara and other cities on December 19 to protest the government’s tripling of bread prices after a three-week shortage and amid steep inflation.

Food price hikes had already provoked sporadic demonstrations in January 2018 but were swiftly curbed.

The new protests erupt the same day as the main opposition leader - ex-prime minister Sadiq Al Mahdi who was driven out in Al Bashir’s 1989 coup - returns from exile.

Some protesters chant “No to hunger”; in Atbra they set fire to the headquarters of Al Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP).

First deadly clashes

The protests spread to Khartoum and other cities on December 20, demonstrators chanting “freedom, peace, justice” and calling for “the fall of the regime”.

Clashes break out as police try to disperse the crowds and eight demonstrators are killed. Other NCP offices are torched.

Troops are deployed in Khartoum and other cities.

On the sixth day of demonstrations, Al Al Bashir breaks his silence on December 24 and vows “real reforms”.

Al Al Bashir vows no change

With no let-up in the near-daily demonstrations, 22 political groups issue a joint call on January 1 for a “new regime”.

Al Al Bashir sacks the health minister on January 5 over rising costs of medicine.

Four days later, thousands chant support for Al Al Bashir at a rally in Khartoum but in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman there are more deaths in anti-government protests.

On January 13, protests spread to the war-torn region of Darfur.

Al Al Bashir tells supporters there: “Demonstrations will not change the government.”

Emergency rule

Western powers on January 17 call on Sudan to respect the rights of demonstrators.

The following week the media accreditation of several Sudanese journalists working for foreign outlets is withdrawn.

On February 11, Human Rights Watch releases videos documenting violence by security forces against protesters including live fire, tear gas and beatings.

Ten days later, security agents arrest several opposition activists as protesters try to march on the presidential palace.

Al Al Bashir declares a nationwide year-long state of emergency on February 22, also dissolving the federal and provincial governments and appointing army and intelligence officers as provincial governors.

Two days later, he swears in a new prime minister as riot police confront hundreds calling for him to resign.

On March 1, Al Al Bashir hands his powers as chief of the ruling NCP to his deputy.

Protest camp at army HQ

The protests become less regular after the state of emergency and Al Al Bashir on April 4 acknowledges that demonstrators had “legitimate” economic concerns, calling for dialogue.

But on April 6, thousands march again in Khartoum, gathering for the first time outside the military headquarters and chanting “One Army, One People”.

They set up camp at the complex, which also houses the president’s residence, defying attempts by security forces on April 9 to dislodge their sit-in with teargas and gunshots into the air.

The United States, Britain and Norway call the same day on the Sudanese authorities to deliver a plan for “political transition”.

Sudan’s police orders its forces to avoid intervening against protesters, following the policy of non-intervention by the military.