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

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.”


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 16 September 2019

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.