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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Sudanese reject government promises in fresh protests

Demonstrations become more localised as security forces continue crackdown

Sudanese protesters chant anti-government slogans in Khartoum on December 25, 2018. Reuters
Sudanese protesters chant anti-government slogans in Khartoum on December 25, 2018. Reuters

Protesters returned to the streets of Sudan's capital and other cities on Friday despite government attempts to placate nationwide anger after more than two weeks of demonstrations.

In Khartoum and Omdurman, the capital's sister city on the opposite bank of the Nile, police fired tear gas as protesters took to the streets after midday prayers to chant anti-government slogans.

As with protests last Friday, security forces were deployed across key public areas in both Khartoum and Omdurman. But the latest demonstrations were staged inside local neighbourhoods, including more than 10 in the capital.

Protests that began on December 19 over a drastic increase in the price of bread have now morphed into a mass movement calling for President Omar Al Bashir and his government to step down.

The government responded with a crackdown by security forces in which at least 40 people have been killed and hundreds arrested, according to a tally released by the Sudanese Communist Party on Wednesday. It said 28 of dead were killed in Alghadarif city, while 400 people were arrested in Khartoum North governorate alone.

In recent days however, Mr Al Bashir and his officials have adopted a more conciliatory tone, promising to address complaints about corruption and mismanagement that have left the economy in crisis. In a televised speech on Monday to mark 63 years since Sudan's independence, the president promised more "transparency, effectiveness and justice in all our national institutions".

On Thursday Mr Al Bashir, who seized power in 1989, spoke of reforms in a meeting with members of the ruling National Congress Party Workers' Union and called the protests a conspiracy against the country.

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Muataz Mousa gave a radio interview in which he said the government was working on reforms and economic crisis would pass by February.

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Persistent protests testify to deep-rooted anger in Sudan

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Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and soaring inflation despite the United States lifting a two-decade trade embargo in 2017.

Inflation is running at 70 per cent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value, while shortages of bread and fuel have regularly hit several cities.

Mr Mousa said the government was working to raise the pound value against the dollar promised that the crisis would end by next month.

At the same time, the government is continuing its crackdown to prevent the spread of the protests by arresting opposition leaders, activists and journalists .

On Thursday, security agents arrested the award-winning journalist and columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih from his office in Khartoum, his relatives said.

However, the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group which includes doctors engineer and teachers, has called for more protests including another attempt to march on the presidential palace in Khartoum on January 6 and a march in Omdurman on January 9 to deliver a memo to the National Assembly demanding the fall of the regime.

Meanwhile, protesters have reacted to government attempts to blame the violence on people from the war-torn Darfur region by raising a new chant: "All the country is Darfur."

Updated: January 4, 2019 08:19 PM

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