Pharmacists strike, anticipation of Khartoum protests grows
Peaceful demonstrations and marches that call for the stepping down of president Omar Al Bashir and his regime continued in Port Sudan and Atbara on Monday and today in El Gedaref. The city of Khartoum remains in anticipation of the planned marches on Wednesday.
Yesterday, residents of Port Sudan held a peaceful march, demanding the withdrawal of Al Bashir. They reached the market of the Red Sea state capital, but after more than two hours the security service dispersed the crowds with a water cannon, tear gas and beatings. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga from Port Sudan that the security service detained dozens of demonstrators.
Also yesterday, students of El Khadamat Secondary School for Boys in Atbara in River Nile state went out in a demonstration that called for the overthrowing of the regime. Listeners in Atbara told this station that the demonstration started from the school and headed to the market, accompanied by demonstrators who shouted slogans against the current government.
“A police force confronted the demonstrators with batons and tear gas before they were joined by residents and other neighbouring schools,” a listener said.
Pharmacists and pharmacy owners in Wad Madani, in El Gezira stat, entered into a strike and closed all pharmacies at 12 o'clock on Monday. They said in a statement that the government’s economic policies - which they described as “a failure” - have resulted in an increase in medicine prices to levels that they have become unaffordable to many Sudanese citizens.
Because of the complete lack of some of them, this has negatively affected the health of Sudanese people.
Public anger in Sudan has been building up over price rises and other economic hardships, including expensive bread, fuel and medicines, as well as limits on cash withdrawals over a liquidity crisis. Pharmacies in the Sudanese capital Khartoum as well as the other states are witnessing lack of many types of medicines amid rising prices. A former head of the private pharmacies department attributed the lack of medicines to pharmacies halting importation and sales due the rise in price of the Dollar.
Pro- and anti-Bashir march
On Wednesday, the Sudanese Professionals Association, opposition parties, civil society organisations and civilians will hold a protest march to the Parliament in Omdurman against president Al Bashir and his government, carrying with them a memorandum that demands the stepping down of Al Bashir and his regime.
Meanwhile the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is using its resources to organise a successful pro-Al Bashir march on Wednesday. It will march to the headquarters of the Republican Palace at the same time of the protest march, where the crowd is expected to be addressed by President Al Bashir.
The NCP directed all members of the government militias, including the Popular Defence Forces, to join the rally and has sent letters to school administrations and service workers to ensure that they will attend the event. The state expressed its commitment to provide all means of transport from offices and schools to the event.
Sudanese people posted pictures on social media of lorries driving into the states, carrying people reportedly to take part in the support march, in addition to pictures of state letters addressed to stakeholders to participate and to not fall behind.
“The money and time spent in the support march should be used to address the Sudanese people’s needs.” - NCP member El Shafee Ahmed
Ambassador El Shafee Ahmed, prominent member of the NCP, is one of the few ruling party members openly speaking out against the pro-Bashir march. “...a step that could destabilise security and stability amid the sharp polarisation between the protesters demanding the overthrow of the regime and the government loyalists.”
In a voice recording shared through WhatsApp, Ahmed called for the effort, time and money that is being spent in the march to be used to address the issues and concerns of the people in Sudan.
‘Rally, not a march’
Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal said that the NCP intends to hold a mass rally rather than a march on Wednesday. Rallies are “allowed to any party that demands it”, he said in response to questions from Members of Parliament this week. They had asked him to explain how the police will deal with the NCP march in Khartoum and the demonstration organised by the Sudanese Professionals Association in Omdurman at the same time.
“But if either one of them brings young lads and with the aim to destroy, we will not allow that, nor does the law,” Bilal said. “The Sudanese Professionals Association is not a party or a legal entity.”
In response to the earlier non-acceptance of the memorandum of the association: “We rejected the memorandum because the Sudanese Professionals Association is not a legitimate legal body whose origin is not known.”
South Sudan, Egypt support
Meanwhile the Sudanese president has received support from its neighbours Egypt and South Sudan. Last month Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry voiced his support for Sudan’s embattled government back in December when he and intelligence chief General Abbas Kamel visited President Al Bashir. These were the first public remarks by a top regional Arab official in support of Bashir's government since protests began on December 19.
In addition, South Sudan’s media regulator ordered media houses to refrain from covering the ongoing anti-government protests. “The ongoing protests in Khartoum are internal issues affecting a friendly nation, the media in South Sudan should not write or broadcast instigative statements and comments about it,” Radio Tamazuj reported the regulator as saying on Monday. The Media Authority summoned El Watan newspaper’s editor-in-chief.
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