Sudanese protesters are gearing up for mass rallies demanding an end to military rule on Wednesday, the historic anniversary of events leading to the toppling of autocrats including Omar al-Bashir.

The planned demonstrations come as Sudan grapples with fallout from an October 25 coup led by army chief Fattah al-Burhan that has hammered its economy.

Security forces sealed off bridges linking Khartoum to other major cities and deployed around the presidential palace and army headquarters in the capital, witnesses said.

The protest has been organised to coincide with the anniversary a 1985 popular uprising that ousted president Jaafar Nimeiri after years of harsh rule.

April 6 also marks the third anniversary of the beginning of a mass sit-in demonstration outside the army headquarters, the culmination of months of protests calling for an end to Bashir’s iron-fisted three decades in power.

Generals bowed to the pressure to remove Bashir five days later, but the protesters stayed on to press for civilian rule, only to be dispersed violently in June that year by men in military fatigues.

At least 128 people were killed in an ensuing crackdown, according to medics.

Civilian and military leaders later agreed on a transition of power, but October’s coup upended those plans, leading to the current wave of protests.

Activists have mounted on online campaign for Wednesday’s protests, using hashtags such as “The storm of April 6” and “The earthquake of April 6”.

“The coup is more than five months old and has produced nothing but set fire to all aspects of life turning our country into an arena of crises,” said the Forces of Freedom and Change, or FFC, the main civilian alliance which was ousted after the coup.

‘Defeat the coup’
The government has declared Wednesday a public holiday.

“It is an important day… so we expect many to take to the streets despite the heat and Ramadan,” said Badwi Bashir, a protester from Khartoum.

“We just want to bring down the coup and end the prospect of any future coups.”

Jaafar Hassan, an FFC spokesman said, April was “the month of victories for the Sudanese”.

“We have to defeat the coup… We have to get out of this crisis,” he told a news conference last week.

Since grabbing power, the military has moved to tighten its grip, rounding up prominent civilian leaders and reversing appointments made during the transition.

“We want a unified front,” said Hassan. “We have tried a partnership with the military, and it failed, ending in this coup, and we shouldn’t do this again.”

Burhan said on Saturday he would only “hand over power to an honest, elected authority, accepted by the all the Sudanese people”.

At least 93 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the latest crackdown, medics say.

On Wednesday, the United States urged against “the use of any violence” and demanded Sudanese authorities “keep their word and hold accountable those responsible for abuses.”

Economic nosedive
Since the coup, Sudan’s already ailing economy has suffered severe blows, as Western donors cut crucial aid pending the restoration of a transition to civilian rule.

Prices of food, fuel and basic commodities have soared and crime and has spiked.

Violence has intensified in remote areas, particularly the restive Darfur region, the UN says.

On Thursday, clashes between Arab and non-Arab tribes left at least 45 people dead in South Darfur state.

The UN has warned of growing humanitarian needs and food insecurity.

Last month, the World Food Programme said it expected the number of Sudanese facing acute hunger to double to more than 18 million by September.

Late Tuesday, Burhan welcomed an initiative for talks to resolve Sudan’s political crisis.

Burhan last week threatened to expel UN special representative Volker Perthes, accusing him of “interference” in the country’s affairs after Perthes warned of the deepening crisis in Sudan during a UN Security Council briefing.

Perthes’ mission, UNITAMS, along with the African Union and the regional bloc IGAD, have agreed on joint efforts to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis — in a bid that earned support from the US and other Western nations.