Su­dan po­lice fire tear gas as protests erupt

Kuwait Times - - International -

KHARTOUM: Su­danese po­lice fired tear gas yes­ter­day at crowds of anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers in Khartoum and the western war-torn re­gion of Dar­fur after or­ga­niz­ers called for na­tion­wide ral­lies against Pres­i­dent Omar AlBashir. The de­mon­stra­tions in Dar­fur were the first of their kind since un­rest erupted last month over a gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to triple the price of bread.

The protests have since swiftly es­ca­lated into na­tion­wide ral­lies widely seen as the big­gest threat to Bashir’s rule in his three decades in power. Pro­test­ers who took to the streets in the cap­i­tal’s Ba­hari dis­trict chant­ing “peace, peace” and “rev­o­lu­tion is the peo­ple’s choice” were quickly con­fronted by riot po­lice, wit­nesses told AFP. Au­thor­i­ties say the protests have left 24 peo­ple dead, while Hu­man Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, in­clud­ing chil­dren and med­i­cal staff.

Protest or­ga­niz­ers have called for near daily de­mon­stra­tions across the coun­try against Bashir this week, call­ing it a “Week of Upris­ing”. In Khartoum on Sun­day pro­test­ers were seen car­ry­ing the Su­danese flag as oth­ers held ban­ners bear­ing the words “peace, jus­tice, free­dom”, which has be­come a key slo­gan in the ral­lies. Wit­nesses told AFP that po­lice were pur­su­ing pro­test­ers down Ba­hari’s streets and al­leys. “It’s like a cat and mouse game,” a wit­ness said. Po­lice ar­rested sev­eral pro­test­ers, wit­nesses said, as footage of the rally which could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied spread on so­cial me­dia net­works.

Protests in Dar­fur

Protests broke out in Dar­fur after calls for ral­lies there by the Su­danese Pro­fes­sion­als’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which has spear­headed the de­mon­stra­tions. Po­lice fired tear gas at demon­stra­tors who took to the streets of El Fasher, the cap­i­tal of North Dar­fur state and in Niyala, the cap­i­tal of South Dar­fur state, wit­nesses said.

Dar­fur, a re­gion the size of France, has been torn by vi­o­lence since 2003 when eth­nic mi­nor­ity rebels took up arms against Khartoum, ac­cus­ing it of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal marginal­iza­tion. Bashir, who seized power in an Is­lamist-backed coup in 1989, has been charged by the Hague-based In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) with geno­cide and war crimes al­legedly com­mit­ted in Dar­fur. Antigov­ern­ment de­mon­stra­tions first erupted on De­cem­ber 19 in towns and vil­lages be­fore later spread­ing to Khartoum.

Rights groups say more than 1,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested since the protests be­gan, in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion lead­ers, ac­tivists and jour­nal­ists as well as demon­stra­tors. The crack­down has drawn in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism, with coun­tries like Bri­tain, Nor­way, Canada and the United States warn­ing Khartoum that its ac­tions could “have an im­pact” on its re­la­tions with their gov­ern­ments.

Al­though the un­rest was trig­gered by the rise in the price of bread, Su­dan has faced a mount­ing eco­nomic cri­sis over the past year, led by an acute short­age of for­eign cur­rency. Re­peated short­ages of food and fuel have been re­ported in sev­eral cities, in­clud­ing Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than dou­bled. Bashir and other of­fi­cials have blamed Wash­ing­ton for Su­dan’s eco­nomic woes. The US im­posed a trade em­bargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in Oc­to­ber 2017. It re­stricted Su­dan from con­duct­ing in­ter­na­tional busi­ness and fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions. — AFP

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