Sudan president Omar al-Bashir pressed by opposition to resign post

Omar al-Bashir (above) declared a one-year state of emergency. after more than two months of nationwide protests against his government’s failure to contain soaring living costs. PHOTO: REUTERS

KHARTOUM (BLOOMBERG) - Sudan's opposition insisted that President Omar al-Bashir resign immediately after he dissolved the government and declared a one-year state of emergency.

"We are against any maneuvers to contain the real demands," Sudanese Professionals Association, a clandestine group whose members include teachers, doctors and accountants, said in a statement after al-Bashir's declaration on Friday.

"Our main demand is the immediate stepping down of the president and formation of a transitional government."

Al-Bashir's announcement came after more than two months of nationwide protests against his government's failure to contain soaring living costs.

It's an uncomfortable reminder of the firebrand trade unions that helped oust al-Bashir's predecessors in 1964 and 1985 and invites comparison with the so-called Arab Spring revolts that broke once-powerful leaders in the region.

Unrest that began in mid-December and spread across the north African nation poses one of the biggest challenges to al-Bashir, 75, since he seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.


The president struck a conciliatory tone, calling for national dialogue amid the political crisis. "It's better for all Sudanese to solve any problems through dialogue," al-Bashir said in a televised address from the capital Khartoum.

"Civil and armed opposition" should join in the dialogue, he said.

Al-Bashir dissolved the central and regional governments and asked lawmakers to postpone proposed constitutional amendments that would let him stand for re-election in a scheduled 2020 vote.

While "some have exploited the protests to cause hate and violence," he said, "we understand the demands of the youths."

On Saturday, al-Bashir named defence minister, Awad Mohammed Ahmed bin Auf as first vice-president, and a former state-governor, Mohamed Tahir Aila, as prime minister, the presidency said. He appointed army officers to lead state governments.

Before al-Bashir's speech, his intelligence chief, Salah Gosh, told reporters that the president planned to step down as leader of the ruling National Congress Party and wouldn't seek re-election.


Thousands of Sudanese went to the streets in a fresh wave of protests after the Friday speech, chanting anti-al-Bashir slogans, while some demanded that he resign.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) is leading a so-called Freedom and Change movement. The protests coincide with an economic crisis as fuel, wheat and cash shortages contribute to an inflation rate of 70 per cent.

Earlier this month, several groups, including farmers' unions, youth movements and civil society organisations joined the professionals-led opposition to intensify protests against al-Bashir. The government retaliated with a crackdown and several arrests, including those of 16 university professors accused of planning a demonstration.

Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman last month declared the professionals association illegal and vowed to rein in its activities.

Amnesty International, which accused Sudanese security forces of a "deadly onslaught," said more than 40 people have been killed in the protests since mid-December.

"We will stick with our revolutionary demands of stepping down of the president and the entire regime," SPA said.

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