Sudanese reject government promises in fresh protests

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.


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.”

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