Police forces in Sudan have fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters in the capital Khartoum as demonstrators challenge a state of emergency declared by President Omar al-Bashir, eyewitnesses say.
The demonstrators took to the streets on Monday, shouting “freedom, peace, justice,” to protest a year-long nationwide state of emergency imposed by the president on Friday to end anti-government rallies.
“We are challenging the regime and we are not scared of the state of emergency,” one of the protesters said. “We have only one aim and that is to make the president step down.”
Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials have time and again said the government can only be changed through elections. The 75-year-old veteran leader is considering running for a third presidential term in next year’s elections.
Demonstrations erupted in Sudan more than two months ago over price hikes and shortages of food and fuel.
The rallies first erupted in the farming town of Atbara after cash-strapped Khartoum cut a vital subsidy on bread and tripled its price. The move angered people and triggered demonstrations, which swiftly mushroomed into nationwide protests.
Officials say 31 people have been killed since the onset of the demonstrations. Human Rights Watch, however, says the death toll stands at 51.
An umbrella group called Alliance for Freedom and Change had organized the Monday demonstrations, calling for a “rally to challenge the emergency.”
Bashir has so far remained defiant in the face of protests, but has launched top-level changes in his administration, including dissolving Sudan’s federal and provincial governments and sacking his long- time ally and first vice president, Bakri Hassan Saleh.
Bashir, who has set up a caretaker administration, has replaced all the state governors with military officials.
Earlier this month, Ibn Auf, who previously served as the head of the military intelligence, made an effort to ease tensions by saying that the younger population who participated in the recent protests had “reasonable ambition.”
Sudan has been struggling with a worsening economic crisis, including a serious shortage of foreign currency. The cost of some commodities, including medicines, has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent. A growing lack of food and fuel has also been regularly reported across several cities, including Khartoum.