Sudanese protesters keep up pressure on al-Bashir

Demonstrators gather outside army HQ in the capital for second straight day in bid to precipitate president’s removal.

     Many of those protesting at the complex on Sunday had camped at the site overnight [AFP]
    Many of those protesting at the complex on Sunday had camped at the site overnight [AFP]

    Thousands of protesters have rallied for a second successive day outside the headquarters of the Sudanese army in the capital, Khartoum, urging the country's military to back their demands for President Omar al-Bashir to resign.

    Chanting "Sudan is rising, the army is rising," crowds massed on Sunday outside the complex, which also houses al-Bashir's official residence and the defence ministry.

    Sudanese police fired tear gas at the demonstrators in a bid to disperse the protest, AFP news agency reported, citing a witness at the scene.

    The protest movement began in a reaction to a government decision to triple the price of bread in December, but it has since escalated into growing demands for al-Bashir's departure after three decades in office.

    Many of those protesting at the complex on Sunday had camped at the site overnight following demonstrations at the location on Saturday, which saw one of the largest turnouts in the months-long rallies against the president's rule.

    Protest organisers chose April 6 to begin the rally outside the army headquarters to mark the 1985 uprising that toppled the administration of then-President Jaafar al-Nimeiri. The military removed al-Nimeiri before handing over power to an elected government, which in turn was overthrown by al-Bashir in a 1989 coup.

    Al-Bashir, meanwhile, has refused to step down, saying his opponents should seek power through the ballot box, and on Sunday chaired a meeting of the country's security council.

    "The security council confirms that the protesters are part of the Sudanese community and their vision and demands have to be heard," the presidency said in a statement afterwards.

    "The council will take measures to enhance peace and security across the country."

    Scores killed, HRW says

    Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, told The Associated Press news agency earlier on Sunday that four people were killed in Khartoum by security forces.

    Another protester was killed at a separate demonstration in Omdurman, Sudan's second-most populous city, Abdel-Jaleel said.

    The state-run SUNA news agency on Saturday quoted police spokesman General Hashim Abdel-Rahim as saying that one person was killed "during disturbances in Omdurman". He called the protests "illegal gatherings". There was no official comment regarding the alleged killings in Khartoum.

    Officials say 32 people have died since the protests erupted.

    Human Rights Watch said at least 51 people have been killed during the demonstrations, however.

    Hundreds of protesters, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists, have also been jailed by the widely-feared National Intelligence and Security Service.

    Critics accuse al-Bashir of mismanaging the economy, leading to soaring food prices and regular shortages of fuel.

    Sunday's protests coincided with a nationwide blackout that the electricity ministry blamed on a technical glitch.

    Al-Bashir has acknowledged that the economic concerns raised by protesters are "legitimate", though he imposed emergency rule on February 22 after an initial crackdown failed to rein in the protests.

    The Sudanese leader's term ends in 2020 and he has repeatedly promised over the years not to make new runs for the presidency. Without amending the country's constitution, he can not run for a third term.

    Can the protests in Sudan succeed?

    Inside Story

    Can the protests in Sudan succeed?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies