Date: Sunday, 07 April 2019
By The Associated Press
CAIRO — Tens of thousands of protesters joined in anti-government marches across Sudan on Saturday in what organizers said was one of the largest turnouts in more than three months of demonstrations calling for embattled President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
The demonstrations began in December over price increases and food shortages, and quickly escalated into calls for Mr. al-Bashir’s resignation, posing one of the biggest challenges yet to his nearly 30-year rule.
The rallies are being led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions.
Footage posted online showed thousands of protesters, mostly young people, marching toward the military’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, demanding the army’s support and chanting: “One people, one military,” and “Freedom.”
They also chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime,” echoing the popular slogan of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that briefly defied despotism in the region, but never made it to Sudan.
Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the organizers, said protesters have started a sit-in around the military’s headquarters, which they hope to keep in place until Mr. al-Bashir resigns. In some videos, troops were seen using tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
Rallies took place across the country. Footage showed dozens of people marching in front of a United Nations refugee camp in Darfur and shouting, “just fall.”
The large opposition Umma Party said security forces arrested four of its leaders ahead of planned marches in the province of Sennar, around 225 miles east of Khartoum.
Authorities did not issue any statements on the arrests, and a government spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Saturday’s marches marked the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of President al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup.
The military removed Mr. Nimeiri after a popular uprising and handed power to an elected government. But the dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until Mr. al-Bashir allied with Islamist hard-liners and toppled it in a coup in 1989.
Mr. Al-Bashir has banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month.
Security forces have responded to the protest movement with a fierce crackdown, killing at least 60 people according to Physicians for Human Rights, a New York-based rights group.