KHARTOUM — Crowds of protesters rallied Sunday in Sudan to show solidarity with the unemployed, witnesses said, amid an economic crisis that has fuelled months of demonstrations against President Omar Al Bashir’s rule.
Deadly protests have rocked the east African country since December, with demonstrators accusing Bashir’s administration of mismanaging the economy and calling on him to step down.
On Sunday protesters in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, across the Nile, were tear gassed by security forces according to onlookers.
Organisers of the protest movement had called the rallies in support of “jobless people” in the country.
“I’m unemployed and my present job is to overthrow the regime”, a protester wrote on his T-shirt as he participated in a Khartoum rally.
Unemployment in Sudan has increased in recent years and is currently around 20 per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Witnesses said security agents ordered shopkeepers and traders to shut down their businesses in an Omdurman market as protesters began to gather.
Families of several detained protesters also held a separate sit-in near the headquarters of the country’s feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which is spearheading a crackdown against protesters.
Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22 to quell the rallies, which began on December 19 in response to a government decision to cut a vital subsidy that trippled the price of bread.
Anger building for years over financial woes, such as soaring inflation, has turned the protests into rallies against Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Officials say 31 people have died in clashes with security forces during the protests so far, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51 including children and medics.
US Congressman Gus Bilirakis, who is currently on a visit to Khartoum, on Sunday called for the release of all political prisoners including protesters.
“All parties recognise the best way forward for Sudan is a transition negotiated between the people of Sudan, opposition parties and the government,” he said in a statement issued by the US embassy.
Bashir has blamed the economic difficulties on a trade embargo imposed by the United States on Sudan in 1997, which was lifted in October 2017.
He says Washington’s decision to keep Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism is preventing the country’s economic recovery, an argument dismissed by his critics.