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  • Sudanese demonstrators march during anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan.

    Sudanese demonstrators march during anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 January 2019
Opinion

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is not willing to give up power even after month-long protests are raging throughout the country. 

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is reluctant to give up his power even after protests have been rocking his country for more than a month.

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The leader of Sudan's largest opposition party demanded that President Bashir's administration bow to mass protests and step down, in an address to hundreds of party supporters in a mosque near Khartoum Friday.

He does little to hide his contempt for the young men and women who have been protesting to demand an end to his three-decade rule: Addressing soldiers this month, Bashir, a 75-year-old former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, warned the “rats to go back to their holes” and said he would only move aside for another army officer, or at the ballot box.

He is facing almost daily defiance at home in towns and cities across the country, protests that are still spreading despite mass arrests and a harsh crackdown by security forces using tear gas and live ammunition.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. | Photo: Reuters

Authorities say at least 30 people have died in the unrest, which started on Dec. 19 after the government tried to raise bread prices, while rights groups and local opposition figures say at least 45 have been killed. Hundreds have been injured and hundreds more detained.

“The current protests represent the biggest and deepest challenge to Bashir’s rule because they indicate that the crisis has reached a new level,” analyst Khalid al-Tijani said.

Bashir’s critics blame him for Sudan’s marginalization and an economic meltdown that saw inflation soar to 72 percent by the end of 2018 and left the country unable to pay for food imports.

Supporters blame a Western conspiracy designed to undermine Islamist rule in Sudan.

In the months before the protests began, the Sudanese had already been struggling to makes ends meet.

Sudanese demonstrators burn tires as they participate in anti-government protests in Omdurman, Khartoum, Sudan. | Photo: Reuters
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The government tried to introduce reforms, devaluing the Sudanese pound and relaxing import restrictions, all to little effect.

The trigger for the wave of protests was a government attempt to introduce unsubsidized bread, allowing bakeries to sell at a higher price. That came on top of the crippling, drawn-out crisis that had led to fuel and banknote shortages.

The demonstrations quickly turned political, targeting ruling party offices and demanding Bashir step down.

Unlike previous bouts of unrest, the protests have spread to parts of the country normally loyal to Bashir — and the heavy-handed response has, so far, failed to stem the spread.

Security forces have mostly used tear gas and stun grenades to try to quash the protests, but demonstrators and local rights groups have also documented the use of live ammunition.

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