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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Sudan's Bashir resists demands to step down amid protests

Demonstrations against price rises have grown since December to include calls for the president to hand over power to the military

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has described those involved in the protests as 'traitors'. AFP
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has described those involved in the protests as 'traitors'. AFP

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, facing the most persistent protests since he seized power in 1989, dismissed calls for him to step down on Wednesday as security forces fired teargas to break up a demonstration in the eastern city of Al Qadarif.

Addressing soldiers at a military base near Atbara, north-east of the capital Khartoum, Mr Bashir scoffed at calls by protesters for him to hand over power to the military.

"We have no problem because the army does not move to support traitors, but moves to support the homeland and its achievements," Mr Bashir said during the speech broadcast by a TV channel affiliated to his ruling party.

Mr Bashir, a former army general, came to power in an Islamist-backed coup and has held on through successive elections that his opponents say were neither free nor fair.

Protests against price rises and other economic hardships began on December 19. Authorities say 19 people, including two security officials, have been killed, while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch put the number at double that.

Security forces have blocked and broken up demonstrations using live ammunition as well as teargas and stun grenades.

Tuesdays' demonstration in Al Qadarif was one of the largest rallies in recent weeks.

Video posted on social media showed hundreds of people chanting "freedom, peace, justice" and "revolution is the people's choice". Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

Three residents of Al Qadarif, who were not involved in the protests, said security forces fired teargas to break up the demonstration, which was organised by a group of unions known as the Sudanese Association of Professionals.

Governor Al Tayib Al Amin told Reuters the protests were limited, and that police dealt with the situation professionally.

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Read more:

Pro-Bashir rally held as Sudan says 800 protesters arrested

Sudanese flood Khartoum streets, demanding the president steps down

Sudanese lose hope for justice for shot and detained protesters

Persistent protests testify to deep-rooted anger in Sudan

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Britain, the United States, Canada and Norway said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they were concerned about the Sudanese government's response to the demonstrations.

"We are appalled by reports of deaths and serious injury to those exercising their legitimate right to protest, as well as reports of the use of live ammunition against protesters," the statement said.

They called on the government to immediately releasejournalists, opposition leaders, human rights activists and other protesters now held in detention.

Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Othman said on Monday that more than 800 people had been detained since the unrest began nearly three weeks ago.

Mr Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 for war crimes and other abuses against civilians during the conflict in Darfur, but he has not been arrested. He has dismissed the accusations against him.

Updated: January 9, 2019 02:33 PM

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