Protesters demand Sudan’s leader step down

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Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has rejected calls for him to resign.

Security forces have fired tear gas at hundreds of Sudanese who took to the streets in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, demanding for President Omar Bashir to step down.

At least 19 people have been killed since the protests began on December 19 over hikes in the price of bread and fuel but have since turned against Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 military coup that he led.

In one neighbourhood of Sudan’s capital, police on Friday also fired live rounds into the air to disperse protesters, a witness told dpa.

“After Friday prayer, people started chanted slogans demanding the regime leave,” Tariq Osman said. “The police … fired live bullets in the air to scare the protesters.”

While rights group Amnesty International says that at least 37 people have been killed, the government puts the death toll at 19.

“Nineteen people lost their lives in the incidents, including two from the security forces,” government spokesman Bushara Juma said at a press conference on Thursday.

The United States and Britain have expressed concern about the violence.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “The Secretary-General is following with concern developments in the Republic of Sudan, including the reported violence and fatalities.

“He appeals for calm and restraint and calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths and violence.

“He extends his condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in the violence. The Secretary-General emphasizes the need to safeguard freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” the statement added.

Amnesty International called for restraint. “With dozens already dead, the government must rein in this deadly use of force and prevent more unnecessary bloodshed,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy director for East Africa, the Great Lakes and the Horn.

“Instead of trying to stop people from demonstrating, the authorities should be focusing on ending longstanding repression of human rights and resolving the economic crisis that have collectively precipitated these protests,” Jackson added.

Doctors and journalists in Sudan have gone on strike in sympathy with the protesters and eastern al-Gadarif and northern Atbara states are both under emergency rule.

There were demonstrations in January over the same issues, with police using tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in Khartoum. Similar protests were held in Sudan in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The oil-rich country’s economy was badly affected when it split with South Sudan in 2011 and the government is also battling several rebel groups.

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