Police tear gas Sudanese protesters calling for government to resign

The demonstrations that erupted on Dec. 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread have swiftly escalated into broader protests. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Police tear gas Sudanese protesters calling for government to resign

  • Crowds chanting “freedom, peace, justice” demonstrated in two areas of Khartoum and in Omdurman
  • Organizers called for nationwide demonstrations over the next week

KHARTOUM: Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters in the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman after midday prayers on Friday as organizers urged nationwide demonstrations over the next week against President Omar Al-Bashir.
Crowds chanting “freedom, peace, justice” demonstrated in two areas of Khartoum and in Omdurman just across the Nile, witnesses said.
They were quickly confronted by volleys of tear gas from riot police.
Friday’s protests came after organizers called for nationwide demonstrations over the next week demanding Bashir resign.
The demonstrations that first erupted on December 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread have swiftly escalated into broader protests that are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule in three decades in power.
“We will launch a week of uprising with demonstrations in every Sudanese town and village,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said.
The group called for a major rally in Khartoum North on Sunday, to be followed by further demonstrations in the capital during the week.
The association, which has mobilized its membership to keep up the momentum of the protests, has also called for a rally later on Friday in the eastern town of Atbara, where the demonstrations first began.
At least 22 people have been killed during the protests, including two security personnel, according to the authorities.
Human rights groups have put the death toll much higher. Human Rights Watch said on Monday that at least 40 people had been killed, including children and medical staff.
Analysts say the challenge now for organizers is to get protesters onto the street in numbers.
“Right now, some of the opposition groups and trade unions are trying to mobilize more protests, and probably they are thinking of how to escalate,” said Matt Ward, senior Africa analyst at Oxford Analytica.
“But so far there hasn’t been an escalation, they are persistent but they haven’t risen in intensity in a significant way.”
Although the immediate trigger for the protests was the price of bread, Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.
Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported in several cities, including the capital Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.
Bashir and other officials have blamed Washington for Sudan’s economic woes.
Washington imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017. It restricted Sudan from conducting international business and financial transactions.
The foreign currency shortages began with the 2011 secession of South Sudan, which took with it the bulk of oil revenues.
But critics of Bashir say his government’s mismanagement of key sectors and its huge spending on fighting ethnic minority rebellions in the western region of Darfur and in areas near the South Sudan border has been stoking economic trouble for years.
The president has remained defiant telling thousands of loyalists at a Khartoum rally on Wednesday that his government would not give in to economic pressure.
“Those who tried to destroy Sudan... put conditions on us to solve our problems, I tell them that our dignity is more than the price of dollars,” Bashir said, brandishing his trademark cane.
Across the Nile in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, hundreds of anti-government protesters blocked a main highway hours later, before riot police moved in.
Three demonstrators were killed as police fired tear gas to disperse the protest, the authorities said.
Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists as well as demonstrators.
The crackdown has drawn international criticism with Britain, Canada, Norway and the United States warning Khartoum that its actions would “have an impact” on its relations with their governments.
Sudan has dismissed their concerns as “biased” and has insisted it is “committed to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations.”


UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

Updated 52 min 43 sec ago
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UK PM May seeks Brexit fix in talks with rivals

  • May reached out to rival parties night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote
  • May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled to put together a new Brexit strategy on Thursday with cross-party talks after MPs sparked political turmoil by rejecting her previous agreement with the EU.
May reached out to rival parties on Wednesday night shortly after surviving a no-confidence vote, hoping to hammer out a Brexit fix that she could present to parliament on Monday.
Just over two months remain before the world’s fifth-largest economy is due to leave the EU, its closest trading partner, after 46 years.
But the island nation is still embroiled in many of the same arguments that were raging when voters defied government warnings and voted to leave in a 2016 referendum.
May’s olive branch offer came after a hectic 24 hours that saw her Brexit deal defeated by a historic margin in one vote and her government then cling on to power in a second one, by a narrow margin of 325 to 306.
May conceded in a Wednesday night television address to the nation that Britons might find the political upheaval “unsettling.”
She called on the opposition Labour party and its smaller pro-EU allies “to put self-interest aside” and attempt to find a solution to end the deadlock.
“The government approaches these meetings in a constructive spirit and I urge others to do the same,” she said.

Immediate hurdles

But May ran into immediate hurdles as top MPs set out demands and conditions contradictory to the government’s current stance.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would only sit down with May if she ruled out the possibility of a “no-deal Brexit.”
That scenario would see trade barriers go up overnight as existing agreements between Britain and the EU expire on March 29.
May’s meetings late Wednesday with top MPs from the pro-EU Liberal Democratic Party and the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties also yielded fresh demands.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) is trying to rule out “no-deal” and secure a second referendum, which could only be held if Brexit is postponed.
“For any discussion between your government and the SNP to be meaningful, these options must be on the table,” SNP parliament leader Ian Blackford said in a letter to May released after their meeting.
But Liberal Democrat chief Vince Cable said May showed a strong desire to engage with her parliamentary foes.
“I think in the current state of crisis that is a positive,” Cable told BBC Radio.

Brexit principles

May herself hinted on Wednesday that Brexit might be postponed if London rallies around a single set of proposals that it could present to the other 27 EU leaders.
She told parliament that Brussels would allow this “if it was clear that there was a plan toward moving toward an agreed deal.”
The British pound has rallied over the course of the week on expectations of a delay to Brexit.
Such a postponement would stop the UK immediately crashing out of the world’s largest single market.
But May has so far stuck to two Brexit principles that — if broken — could see more members of her own Conservative party revolt: limiting EU migration and pursuing an independent trade policy.
Both of those red lines are at odds with opposition hopes for membership of an EU customs union or its single market.
“We can’t stay in the current EU customs union,” Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC Radio.