Sudan’s Bashir bans protests, regulates foreign currency trade

In a series of emergency decrees, embattled president also outlaws trading or hoarding subsidised fuel products.

Sudan''s President Omar al-Bashir
The 75-year-old leader has remained defiant but has launched top-level changes in his administration [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Sudan‘s President Omar al-Bashir banned public gatherings and protests in a series of emergency decrees issued on Monday as he faces the most sustained anti-government street unrest of his 30-year rule.

In a statement issued by the presidential palace, Bashir also announced a ban on trading or hoarding subsidised fuel products, as well as new regulations on trading and transporting foreign currency and gold.

In his decrees, Bashir authorised the public prosecutor to revoke any suspect’s immunity should they have it and set up new courts to deal with cases related to the state of emergency.

Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, on Friday declared a year-long nationwide state of emergency to rein in the protest campaign.

He also dissolved Sudan’s federal and provincial governments as part of a major shake-up of his administration.

But protests have carried on, with hundreds of demonstrators undeterred on Monday despite riot police firing tear gas at crowds in the capital, Khartoum.

“We are challenging the regime and we are not scared of the state of emergency,” said protester Erij who gave only her first name for security reasons.

“We have only one aim and that is to make the president step down.”

Later on Monday, protesters also took to the streets in the Khartoum districts of Burri, Shambat and Al-Deim, witnesses said.

Burri has become a site of almost daily rallies with protesters blocking streets and burning tyres and tree trunks.

Protest organisers, an umbrella group called Alliance for Freedom and Change, called for Monday’s “rally to challenge the emergency”.

Riot police also fired tear gas into the compound of Ahfad University for Women after students staged a sit-in.

“Police fired tear gas when some students stepped out of the campus and began chanting slogans, that’s when some canisters hit the compound,” a witness said.

Weeks of protests

Protests first erupted in the town of Atbara on December 19 last year against a government decision to triple the price of bread.

They quickly escalated into demonstrations against Bashir’s iron-fisted rule as protesters called on him to step down.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence since then, while Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51.

The 75-year-old leader has remained defiant but has launched top-level changes in his administration.

He even sacked his long-time ally and first vice president Bakri Hassan Saleh.

On Sunday, he swore in a new prime minister and appointed 16 army officers and two others from the feared National Intelligence and Security Service as governors for Sudan’s 18 provinces.

Sudan’s financial woes have worsened amid a lack of foreign currency since South Sudan became independent in 2011, taking with it the bulk of oil earnings.

The resulting shortages in basic goods have fuelled spiralling inflation that has devastated the purchasing power and living standards of ordinary Sudanese, from agricultural labourers to middle-class professionals.

Source: News Agencies