Sudan protests continue but president defiant

It’s now over a month since the protests in Sudan broke out and they seem to be taking a new shape each day although the president is defiant amidst calls for him to step down.

According to officials, 26 people have so far died in protests that began in December last year though right groups claim that the number of those who have lost their lives is over 40.

In his speech on Sunday in Southern Khartoum, president Omar al-Bashir blamed “infiltrators” for the killings. “There are some people among the protesters who are killing the demonstrators”, said the president.

The protests in Sudan started on 19th December 2018 with the burning of the National Congress Party headquarters in the town of Atbara. Initially, reasons for the protests included high costs of fuel and bread. High inflation and shortage of cash in the economy were also mentioned among the aggrieving factors and later on they culminated into calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The genesis of the protests

The first protests in Sudan broke out in January 2018 when the government eliminated wheat subsidies forcing the people to protest the move in Khartoum. Other events that have discontent among the people of Sudan include the move by the National Congress Party to change their constitution to allow president Bashir to run for presidency next year. In October last year, the Sudanese government devalued the pound which led to fluctuating exchange rates across the country and reduced the cash in circulation. The inflation in Sudan is estimated at 70% making the vast North African country rank second in the world after Venezuela.

Recent Protests

The first protests erupted as a result of the hike of bread prices and they began in Atbara before spreading to Port Sudan and the capital Khartoum. In the response to the protests, security officials in Sudan used tear gas, live ammunitions and rubber bullets which left dozens dead and several injuries. On 21st December, the government cut off social media access in a move to stop the spread of rumors that were fueling the protests.

On 7th January 2019, security forces arrested over 800 anti-government protesters while 19 were killed including security officials. There was a massive gathering of protesters on 9th January in the Southeastern city of El-Gadarif while various schools have been closed around the country and curfews have been issued in several parts of the country.

On Sunday a group of demonstrators tried to match to Parliament in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman with the aim of handing in a petition demanding the president to step down. Police spit up the move after firing tear gas and running after the protesters.

More protests were also reported in the East and North districts of Khartoum of Burri and Bahari respectively.

Messages of solidarity

In the response to the turbulence in Sudan, Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hammad vowed to support President Bashir just after three days of the protests and said that his country stands in solidarity with Sudan. He also went on to assure Mr. Bashir his sympathy and promised that Qatar is ready to extend any help possible to Sudan to overcome the current crisis. Bahrain’s ministry of foreign affairs also declared the country’s solidarity with Sudan and their willingness to help Sudan surpass the crisis.

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