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Sudan protests intensify as Bashir swears in his emergency officials

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives to address members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a paramilitary group, in the capital Khartoum on February 12, 2019 [ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images]
Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives to address members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a paramilitary group, in the capital Khartoum on February 12, 2019 [ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images]

Sudanese security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters on Sunday, as opponents of President Omar al-Bashir defied a state of emergency he declared on Friday and took to the streets again in cities across the country, Reuters reports.

Opposition groups say Bashir’s decision was an attempt to silence popular demands he step down and called for protests to continue.

Anti-government demonstrations began on Dec. 19, triggered by price increases and cash shortages, but quickly developed into protests against Bashir’s rule.

Security forces fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters in the capital Khartoum and across the River Nile in Omdurman, witnesses said, as Bashir swore in officials he appointed to replace those he sacked when he dissolved the central and state governments on Friday.

Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, posed for a photograph with newly-appointed First Vice President Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf and new state governors, all wearing military uniforms after a swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace.

The use of military garb sent the message that “the military authority is the one to assume the reins of power in a nationalistic way in the country,” according to Fath Alrahman Ahmed, a political science professor at Neelain University.

READ: Is the 30-year rule of Sudan’s President Al-Bashir coming to an end?

It also shows Bashir distancing himself from Islamist political parties, Ahmed said, something aimed at reassuring regional allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which believe their Gulf rival Qatar supports Sudanese Islamists.

Protests in Khartoum have escalated since the state of emergency was announced, and demonstrations were held on Sunday in various parts of the country.

Protests in Sudan - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Protests in Sudan – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Security forces confronted about 1,000 protesters in the Banet neighbourhood of Omdurman, where demonstrators had blocked streets with car tyres, witnesses said.

In the evening, security forces fired tear gas at dozens of protesters in Omdruman who blocked Al Arbaeen street, a major artery, a Reuters witness said. More than 30 security forces pickup trucks were scattered around the area.

Hundreds demonstrated in the Burri neighbourhood of Khartoum, blocking the main road, setting fire to car tyres and chanting: “Freedom! Freedom!”, a Reuters witness said.

Plumes of smoke could be seen rising over the area, which police had showered with tear gas, the witness said.

READ: Sudan’s economic decline provides fuel for anger against Bashir

Hundreds of protesters also faced tear gas in the upscale neighbourhood of Maamoura in eastern Khartoum, witnesses said, as did hundreds more in Wad Madani, the capital of Gezira state.

Hundreds blocked the main road in the Shambat neighbourhood of Khartoum North and chanted “Down, that’s it,” a rallying call that underlines their main demand for Bashir to go.

Bashir appointed Mustafa Youssef to replace Moatazz Moussa as finance minister on Sunday, a presidential statement said.

Moussa had been both prime minister and finance minister but has lost both positions. Bashir appointed Mohamed Tahir Ayala, previously touted as a potential future president, as prime minister on Saturday.

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