Protests in Su­dan gain mo­men­tum

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Joseph Gold­stein

KAMPALA, Uganda – Protests in Su­dan reached a new stage over the week­end, as tens of thou­sands of peo­ple demon­strated in front of army head­quar­ters in Khartoum to de­mand the de­par­ture of Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir, who has wielded au­thor­i­tar­ian power for three decades.

In what may sig­nal a sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment, some sol­diers ap­peared to be sup­port­ing the demon­stra­tion by pro­tect­ing pro­test­ers from other se­cu­rity forces in­tent on dis­pers­ing them, one pro­tester re­counted Sun­day af­ter­noon in an in­ter­view.

The ral­lies be­gan in De­cem­ber amid food short­ages and ris­ing prices and quickly emerged as a mass move­ment across the coun­try united by the de­mand that al-Bashir step down.

They now seem to be gain­ing mo­men­tum, and on Sun­day the re­gion was brac­ing for al-Bashir’s re­sponse.

The pres­i­dent met Sun­day with his se­cu­rity coun­cil, ac­cord­ing to the state news agency, SUNA. It said that the coun­cil took steps to main­tain peace and se­cu­rity and that the gov­ern­ment was keen to con­tinue dia­logue with all groups to achieve na­tional con­sen­sus.

The protests in Su­dan come less than a week af­ter the ail­ing pres­i­dent of Al­ge­ria, Ab­de­laziz Boute­flika, agreed to re­sign af­ter weeks of mass demon­stra­tions that were largely peace­ful.

While al-Bashir’s hold on power is seen as much stronger than Boute­flika’s, his po­si­tion seemed to weaken some­what over the week­end, as the protests gath­ered strength and the gov­ern­ment seemed un­sure how to re­spond.

Al-Bashir’s res­i­dence in Khartoum, the cap­i­tal, is in the same mil­i­tary com­pound as the army head­quar­ters. He rose to power in a mil­i­tary coup in 1989 and for much of the time since he has been re­garded as a pariah in the West.

For a time in the 1990s, Su­dan hosted Osama bin Laden. And al-Bashir is the only cur­rent leader of a na­tion to be wanted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.

The court has ac­cused him of crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide, ac­cus­ing him of play­ing “an essen­tial role” in atroc­i­ties in Dar­fur, a re­gion in Su­dan’s west.

In re­cent years, he has sought to im­prove his stand­ing in the West, and in 2017 the United States agreed to lift sanc­tions against Su­dan, cit­ing sev­eral promis­ing changes.

Among other things, Su­dan agreed not to en­gage in arms deals with North Korea, and to re­duce its in­ter­fer­ence in South Su­dan, which be­came in­de­pen­dent in 2011 af­ter a long civil war.

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