Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday pledged to bolster rural development, as he sought to face down anti-government demonstrations that have rocked cities and villages nationwide.
He held a series of rallies across the country, promising access to electricity, education and healthcare, after weeks of protests rocked what was considered to be the biggest threat to his 30-year rule.
On Sunday, he travelled across North Kordofan, addressing hundreds of people in three separate televised rallies, including a night-time event in the state capital of el-Obeid.
In the morning he addressed hundreds of villagers at the day’s first rally, promising to bring clean drinking water to rural areas “across Sudan”.
The speech came after he inaugurated a new 340km highway linking North Kordofan to Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum.
“Building such a road in present economic conditions is not an easy thing to achieve,” said Bashir, after being escorted to the stage by dozens of men on camels as crowds of villagers clapped and whistled to Sudanese tunes.
“Along this road, we will bring electricity to boost the region’s growth.”
‘Building a new Sudan’
Hours later Bashir addressed a second rally where he called on the country’s young men and women to help develop the country.
“The youth, for whom we have built universities, have to be ready to continue with the mission of building a new Sudan,” he said in a village where hundreds had gathered.
The statement came after Prime Minister Moutaz Mousa Abdallah on Saturday called the protest movement a “respectable youth movement” and said its voice should be heeded.
As darkness fell, Bashir, dressed in traditional robe and turban, spoke to hundreds of cheering supporters, including students, at an open-air stadium in el-Obeid where authorities have renovated an existing hospital.
“Patients often go to England, India or Jordan for surgeries, but now we can do them at el-Obeid,” he said as crowds cheered and loyalists set off fireworks.
Demonstrations erupted in Sudan in December after a government decision to triple the price of bread unleashed frustrations at years of deteriorating living conditions and growing hardship.
Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence, while Human Rights Watch says at least 51 have been killed.
Only through elections
Bashir’s attempts to rally support have so far failed to halt the wave of discontent.
The group leading the demonstrations is calling for fresh protests over the next few days, starting on Sunday night.
The president’s rallies came a day after more than 3,000 people on Saturday protested his rule following the brutal death of an anti-government demonstrator.
Teacher Ahmed Alkhair was arrested during an anti-government protest on Thursday and died two days later while in custody, according to the independent doctors’ association, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.
Alkhair’s family said the 36-year-old’s body showed signs of torture.
In response, thousands of people took to the streets of the eastern city of Khashm el-Girba on Saturday where Alkhair’s funeral had taken place. Protesters called for Bashir to step down.
Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials have repeatedly said that the government can be changed only through elections.
The leader, who came to power in a coup in 1989, is considering running for a third presidential term in polls due next year.