World

Sudan's al-Bashir declares yearlong state of emergency amid protests against his rule as poverty worsens

AFP-JIJI

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a nationwide state of emergency on Friday and dissolved the government in an effort to quell weeks of demonstrations that have rocked his iron-fisted rule.

Deadly protests have broken out across the East African country since the government tripled the price of bread on Dec. 19, with demonstrators accusing the government of mismanaging the nation’s economy and calling on the veteran leader to step down.

“I announce imposing a state of emergency across the country for one year,” al-Bashir said in a televised address to the nation from the presidential palace in Khartoum. “I announce dissolving the government at the federal level and at the provincial levels.”

Protest organizers vowed to press on with their demonstrations until al-Bashir steps down.

“We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association which is spearheading the campaign.

Late on Friday, crowds of protesters took to the streets in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, but were quickly confronted with tear gas by riot police, witnesses said.

Hours after he made his announcements, al-Bashir issued two presidential decrees appointing 16 army officers and two security officers as new governors for the country’s 18 provinces.

He also announced that five members of the outgoing Cabinet, including ministers for foreign affairs, defense and justice, would retain their portfolios.

Officials say 31 people have died in the violence; Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed, including medics and children.

It is not the first time al-Bashir has imposed a nationwide emergency. He did so in December 1999, when a political crisis erupted after he broke away from Islamist mentor Hassan al-Turabi.

Sudan’s financial woes were long a cause of popular frustration before the anger spilled onto the streets after the bread price hike. Soaring inflation along with acute foreign currency shortages have battered the economy, especially after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 took away the bulk of oil earnings.