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Dozens wounded as Sudan protests reach Khartoum

December 21, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Dozens of Sudanese were wounded during protests over price hikes in Khartoum, Sudan on 20 December 2018

Dozens of protesters have been wounded in demonstrations across Sudan, including the capital Khartoum, over rising food prices and economic mismanagement.

Thousands of people across the country took to the streets after Friday prayers to demonstrate against the government’s economic policies and called for President Omar Al-Bashir to step down. Today’s protests, organised under the hashtag “The cities of Sudan rise”, are the culmination of numerous rallies that have taken place throughout the week, resulting in a state of emergency being declared in several cities and schools closing until further notice.

In a bid to break up demonstrations, the military has been deployed in several neighbourhoods, with security forces firing tear gas and bullets to disperse protesters. Yesterday, some eight civilians were killed – six in eastern city of Al-Qadarif and two more in the northern Nile River state – most of whom were students.

However there have also been reports of soldiers refusing to fire on civilians, instead standing down and allowing protests to continue.

A curfew has been implemented in various provinces, with restrictions on social media in some cities forcing users to turn to virtual private networks to share news on Twitter and Facebook.

READ: Al-Mahdi calls for ‘new social contract’ amidst protests in Sudan

In Khartoum today, protesters burned tyres and chanted slogans calling for the “fall of the regime”, a mantra associated with the Arab Spring in 2011. In a show of transnational unity, some demonstrators yesterday also carried the Syrian revolutionary flag, condemning the visit of Al-Bashir to Damascus earlier this week.

This morning, a spokesman for the Sudanese government said the protests of the two previous days were “dealt with in a civilised way without repression or opposition” – it did not comment on any casualties.

The latest protests were triggered on Wednesday by a government decision to raise bread prices from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.063).  Food prices have soared since the start of this year after the government stopped state-funded imports of wheat.

Sudan has been facing heightened economic uncertainty in recent years with an acute shortage of foreign currency resulting in the pound plunging against the dollar. Despite the lifting of US economic sanctions last year, international banks have continued to be wary of doing business with financial institutions in the country.

Sudan’s economy was hit particularly hard after the south seceded from the north in 2011, taking with it about 75 per cent of oil earnings. A surging inflation rate of 69 per cent, regular fuel shortages and food items rising to unprecedented prices have also triggered growing discontent among the public.

The crisis is the biggest Al-Bashir has faced since becoming president in 1989. In recent months, he has dissolved the government, named a new central bank governor and brought in a package of reforms, but the changes have done little to improve the country’s situation.

Further violence is expected as the protests show no sign of slowing. Between 2011 and 2013, Sudanese security forces carried out a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the Arab Spring, killing nearly 200 protesters according to human rights groups.

READ: Sudan agrees to raise civil servant salaries