Sudan police disperse protest in Khartoum

Monitoring Desk

KHARTOUM: Thousands have taken to the streets in the Sudanese capital to call for President Omar al Bashir to step down. It’s the latest in nearly three weeks of demonstrations and calls for his resignation, posing a serious challenge to al Bashir’s rule.

Protesters gathered at five points in Khartoum before they began to march on al Bashir’s Nile-side palace in the city centre. They chanted: “Freedom, peace and justice; Revolution is the people’s choice.”

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who would regroup and resume the march only to be attacked by tear gas again. A video clip shared by activists online purported to show policemen chasing protesters as they pointed their tear gas guns skyward before firing them.

Another clip showed protesters running away from the police, seeking shelter in side streets to avoid arrest and the tear gas. “I am fully confident that we will succeed in bringing down this regime and live the life that we deserve,” said Mohammed, an unemployed 25-year-old who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals. “My confidence comes from the fact that most protesters are young and persistent like me,” he said after screaming at fellow protesters not to run away from the tear gas. Another activist, Romaisa, 40, was out of breath as she ran to escape arrest. “We will triumph at the end despite the excessive use of violence and because we insist on demonstrating,” she said. She also declined to give her full name for fear of arrest.

The activists said police on Sunday blocked a bridge over the Nile that links Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman to the capital’s centre in a bid to prevent protesters from joining forces.

Some journalists covering the protests were arrested, according to other journalists. Sudanese security authorities arrested several faculty members from Khartoum University on Sunday, two professors said, after they joined the anti-government protests. Witnesses said security forces blocked professors and lecturers from coming out to protest outside the university, arresting at least eight. There were also protests on Sunday in the town of Wad Madani, south of Khartoum. The latest round of demonstrations in Khartoum and Wad Madani was in response to a call by a Sudanese Professionals Association, a coalition of professional unions, to push for Bashir to step down.

Al Bashir has been in power since he led a military coup 29 years ago. He has shown no signs that he might step down anytime soon and continues to blame the country’s problems on international sanctions and plots against its Islamic “experience.”

His rule has been defined by turmoil and conflict while the economy lurched from one crisis to another. The secession of the mostly animist and Christian south of the country in 2011 deprived Sudan of about three-quarters of the country’s oil wealth.