Sudan professionals call for New Year's Eve march to presidency

March to presidency, the second since protests began, coincides with Sudan's 63 years of independence celebrations.

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    The protests that began across much of Sudan on December 19 turned into a call for President Bashir to step down [Reuters]
    The protests that began across much of Sudan on December 19 turned into a call for President Bashir to step down [Reuters]

    A coalition of professional associations in Sudan has again called for a march on the eve of the country's 63rd anniversary of independence to demand that President Omar al-Bashir step down immediately.

    In a statement on Friday, the Association of Sudanese Professionals, an umbrella coalition of unions, said the march would commence on Monday from Qandil Square in the capital city Khartoum to the presidential palace.

    "Again, we demand Bashir's immediate resignation … [and the] formation of a transitional government. We ask all our citizens to dedicate this day and night to protesting and to making it a special welcome of the New Year," the coalition said.

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    It had organised a similar march to the presidential palace on December 25, when riot police used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the crowds of several hundreds of protesters.

    wave of demonstrations began across much of Sudan on December 19, first against a rise in prices but later against the government of Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 military coup.

    The protests have coincided with worsening economic conditions, a currency devaluation, fuel shortages and an increase in the price of bread.

    At least 19 people have been killed in the protests, according to government estimates, but Amnesty International puts the death toll at 37 since the demonstrations began.

    Several journalists, activists and opposition leaders, including chief of the Sudanese Congress Party Omar el-Digeir and senior leader of Sudan's Communist Party Siddiq Youssef, have been arrested according to civil society groups.

    The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service has denied knowledge of the arrests.

    Strikes continue

    In solidarity with the demonstrations, Sudanese lawyers announced on Saturday a general strike to be held on the day of the march.

    "We call on all lawyers across the country to take part in the strike and to hold protests outside courts," a statement released by the Sudanese Professionals Association said.

    On Thursday, the Sudanese Journalists Network announced a three-day strike against what it described as "the Sudanese government's crackdown on journalists".

    In a statement, the network said the strike was also in response to the detention of a group of its members who held a sit-in outside the office of independent newspaper al-Tayyar. Two journalists among the detainees were reportedly later released.

    The announcements come after Sudanese doctors launched an indefinite strike on Monday, while trade unions and other professional associations called for a nationwide work stoppage.

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    "The doctors' strike will continue until we see a peaceful handover of power. We are not putting any patients at risk as all emergency cases are being treated," Sara Abdelgalil, president of the Sudanese Doctor's Union in the UK, told Al Jazeera.

    "The journalists' network has joined us and we hope that more professionals will do so, as well," she added.

    On Saturday, the Sudanese Doctors' Union published on its Facebook page a list of at least 40 hospitals and medical centres across the country that are part of the strike.

    According to Abdelgalil and a statement published by the Doctors' Union, its chairman, Ahmed al-Shaikh, was arrested during the protests on Tuesday.

    "His family tells us he is being held in Khartoum's Kobar Jail along with the union's vice president," said Abdelgalil.

    Al Jazeera could not independently verify these reports.

    Commenting on the march planned for Monday, Abdelgalil said: "We (Sudanese doctors) are very worried about the number of casualties that may arise from the protests planned for December 31.

    "Cases received at hospitals over the past week have shown many gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest. Peaceful protesters are being targeted to be killed."

    Sudan's top Islamist party, a member of Bashir's government, called on Wednesday for a probe into the killings of protesters.

    Although the protests initially appeared to be tied to a recent increase in the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three, analysts believe the people's grievances run deeper than that.

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    "The trigger of the protests was the rise in bread prices, but underlying these protests is a long-standing public discontent over the economic and political policies of Bashir's regime," Mohamed Osman, an independent Sudanese analyst, told Al Jazeera earlier this week.

    Earlier this week, the Sudanese government affirmed it will carry out economic reforms to "ensure a decent living for citizens", according to the official Sudan news agency, in its first comment since the protests began.

    The ruling National Congress Party said it understands the people's anger over the economic situation, but spokesman Ibrahim el-Sadik accused Israel and "left-wing parties" of being behind the protests.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera