‘The peo­ple want the fall of the regime’

Hun­dreds rally in Su­dan’s cap­i­tal for al-Bashir’s ouster

The Expositor (Brantford) - - CLASSIFIEDS - BRIAN RO­HAN

CAIRO — Hun­dreds of pro­test­ers marched in and around Su­dan’s cap­i­tal Khartoum on Sun­day, the fourth week of un­rest that be­gan over sky­rock­et­ing prices and a fail­ing econ­omy but which now calls for the ouster of au­to­cratic Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir.

Images cir­cu­lated by ac­tivists on­line showed marches tak­ing place in Khartoum and its north­ern twin cities of Om­dur­man and Ba­hary, de­spite se­cu­rity forces fir­ing tear gas at the crowds. One group, hun­dreds strong, ap­peared to have reached Ba­hary’s main train sta­tion.

Se­cu­rity forces en­cir­cled the area and fired in the air to dis­perse crowds around the sta­tion, the main rally point for a gath­er­ing called by protest groups, pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions and po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion. Shops in the area have been al­most en­tirely shut­tered, eye­wit­nesses said, and crowds con­tin­ued to gather.

Pro­test­ers burnt tires to ob­scure the view of po­lice­men chas­ing them down, in a catand-mouse game that lasted un­til after dark. Wit­nesses said se­cu­rity forces were break­ing into lo­cal homes and busi­nesses in pur­suit of demon­stra­tors tak­ing refuge there.

“The peo­ple want the fall of the regime,” chanted a crowd in the area, as seen in one video, echo­ing a pop­u­lar slo­gan of the 2011 Arab Spring up­ris­ings that briefly de­fied despo­tism in the re­gion, but never made it to Su­dan.

De­mon­stra­tions also took place in other cities across the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in Gadarif, Faw and Amri, as well in the western re­gion of Dar­fur, ac­tivists said, with eye­wit­nesses adding that po­lice had bro­ken up a 1,000-per­son strong demon­stra­tion in the north­ern Dar­fur town of el-Fasher.

The eye­wit­nesses spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

They said that se­cu­rity forces had sur­rounded the Haj al-Safi hos­pi­tal in Khartoum, while a doc­tors’ union warned them against at­tack­ing or fir­ing tear gas near or in­side hos­pi­tals as had been re­ported last week by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional.

Su­dan’s econ­omy has stag­nated for most of al-Bashir’s rule, but its re­cent lows have been dra­matic, prompt­ing the protests. He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the re­li­giously and eth­ni­cally di­verse na­tion, los­ing three quar­ters of Su­dan’s oil wealth when the mainly an­i­mist and Chris­tian south se­ceded in 2011 fol­low­ing a ref­er­en­dum.

Bashir is also wanted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court for geno­cide in Dar­fur.

An Is­lamist who has been in power since he led a mil­i­tary coup in 1989, he has said those seek­ing to oust him can only do so through elec­tions, and he is run­ning for an­other term in of­fice next year. He has in­sisted that the protests are part of a for­eign plot to un­der­mine Su­dan’s “Is­lamic ex­per­i­ment” and blamed the coun­try’s wors­en­ing eco­nomic cri­sis on in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

Al­ready among the long­est serv­ing lead­ers in the re­gion, al-Bashir hopes to win an­other term in of­fice. In a bid to pla­cate pop­u­lar anger over his eco­nomic poli­cies, he has promised higher wages, con­tin­u­ing state sub­si­dies on ba­sic goods and more ben­e­fits for pen­sion­ers.

His prom­ises have been dis­missed by crit­ics as un­ten­able.

Also Sun­day, the gov­ern­ment raised its of­fi­cial death toll from the weeks of protest by five to 24, still un­der­cut­ting num­bers re­leased by Hu­man Rights Watch and Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, who say at least 40 have been killed.

Su­dan’s Gen­eral Prose­cu­tor said nine of those killed were in Gadaref, a prov­ince south­east of Khartoum close to the Ethiopian and Eritrean bor­ders. The rest were killed in Om­dur­man and re­gions north and north­east of the cap­i­tal.

HASSAN AM­MAR/AP FILES

In this Oct. 25, 2011 file photo, Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir at­tends the fu­neral of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Ab­dul-Aziz Al Saud, in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia. In Jan. 2019, with vi­o­lent anti-gov­ern­ment protests into their fourth week, Su­dan ap­pears headed to­ward po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis, with drawn out un­rest across much of the coun­try and a frac­tured op­po­si­tion with­out a clear idea of what to do if their wish to see the coun­try’s leader of 29 years go comes true.

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