Tensions escalate in Sudan amid growing street protests

Published 25.12.2018 00:30
Updated 25.12.2018 08:00

Fresh protests against bread price hikes have rattled Sudan since last week, as riot police deployed around the capital Khartoum into demonstrations. The violence was the latest in a series of anti-government protests across Sudan, which were initially sparked by rising prices and shortages of food and fuel, but soon turned to demands for President Omar Bashir to step down.

Sudan's doctors, meanwhile, began an indefinite strike yesterday, with organizers reporting a widespread response, as reported by The Associated Press. The strike is mainly focused on government hospitals, but the organizers said some doctors in private clinics were joining in. An umbrella coalition of professional unions said the doctors' strike would be the first of a series of work stoppages to force Bashir to step down. It said its members will march on Khartoum's Republican Palace, where they would submit a written demand for the president to step down. It also called on non-members to join in.

The Sudanese military has reiterated support for Bashir amid street protests over price hikes and a shortage of basic commodities. In a Sunday statement, the army said its entire regular forces are supporting the leadership of the country.

"The armed forces assert that it stands behind its leadership and its keen interest in safeguarding the people's achievements and the nation's security, safety along with its blood, honor and assets," said a military statement cited by the official SUNA news agency. The statement came amid reports that some senior military officers have joined protesters in the cities of Atbara, Gadaref and Port Sudan.

On Sunday, protests broke out in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum, and the North and South Kordofan states. Witnesses said police fired teargas to disperse fans who marched down the center of Khartoum following a football game amid chants against Bashir, who has been in power since 1989. He is seeking a new term in office. Lawmakers loyal to him are already campaigning for constitutional amendments that would allow him to run in the 2020 election.

Sudanese authorities have announced a state of emergency and curfew in a number of provinces over the protests, with government officials accusing Israel of plotting with rebel groups to cause violence in the country. A nation of 40 million people, Sudan has struggled to recover from the loss of three quarters of its oil output-its main source of foreign currency-when South Sudan seceded in 2011.

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