KHARTOUM: Hundreds of protesters on Tuesday staged a “martyrs’ rally” in an eastern Sudanese town to honor those killed in anti-government protests last month, witnesses said.
Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19, when unrest broke out over the price of bread.
Authorities say at least 19 people including two security personnel have been killed during the demonstrations, but rights groups say around 40 people have died.
Six people were killed in Al-Gadaref, an impoverished agricultural town in eastern Sudan.
On Tuesday, protesters staged what organizers said was a “martyrs’ rally” to mark the deaths in Al-Gadaref.
The main market was shut as demonstrators gathered in the downtown area, chanting slogans such as “Peace, justice, freedom” and “Revolution is the choice of the people.”
Demonstrators were confronted by riot police who fired tear gas as protesters prepared to march to the provincial council building, witnesses said.
Groups of protesters managed to reach the compound of the council building and one of their representatives read out a petition calling for President Omar Al-Bashir to resign, one witness told AFP by telephone on condition of anonymity.
The protest was organized by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group of teachers, doctors and engineers that has spearheaded the ongoing anti-government demonstrations across the country.
Sudanese authorities could not be reached to comment on the rally.
Authorities have launched a crackdown on opposition leaders, activists and journalists to prevent the spread of protests.
More than 800 protesters have been arrested across Sudan since the unrest began, Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said Monday while describing the current situation as “calm and stable.”
Sources said that 118 buildings were destroyed in the protests, including 18 that belonged to police, while 194 vehicles were set on fire including 15 that belonged to international organizations.
Several buildings and offices of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) were torched in the initial violence.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, told police last month to use “less force” in their response to demonstrators.
Protests broke out when the government raised the price of a small loaf of bread from 1 Sudanese pound to 3 (from 2 to 6 US cents).
Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.
Food and fuel shortages have been regularly reported across several cities, including the capital Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent.