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Sudan opposition forces request Al Bashir to step down

December 1 - 2016 KHARTOUM
The head office of the Communist Party of Sudan in Khartoum (file photo)
The head office of the Communist Party of Sudan in Khartoum (file photo)

On Wednesday, officials at the Republican Palace in Khartoum refused to accept a memorandum demanding President Omar Al Bashir immediately step down from power. Security agents blocked access to the premises of the Communist Party, and reportedly detained a number of party leaders.

More than 20 parties, organisations, and individuals, signed the memorandum in which they demand the president to hand the power to the Sudanese people.

Representatives of the National Consensus Forces (NCF, a coalition of leftist political parties), the Civil Society Initiative, and a number of public figures planned to hand the memo to the Sudanese president on Wednesday morning.

“However, the security officers at the Palace refused to take the memorandum, with the pretext that Al Bashir is currently abroad, and the head of the Presidency was not available,” Mohamed El Khateeb, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Sudan told Radio Dabanga.

“The officers contacted the under-secretary of the Presidency, who said that he is not authorised to receive such memoranda.”

The delegation then proceeded to the head office of the Communist Party in Khartoum II, for a press conference in the afternoon. This failed however, as security agents surrounded the building, and “violently denied journalists access to the briefing,” El Khateeb reported. Later, a number of communist leaders were detained, he said.

In the memorandum, posted on social media, the opposition calls for the establishment of a transitional government that will end the wars and provide relief to the affected, improve the economic situation, and put an end to the one-party system by organising free and fair elections at the end of the transitional period.

Protests

The memorandum came after the Sudanese government implemented a series of austerity measures last month, which according to President Omar Al Bashir were needed “to avoid the collapse of the country”.

Subsidies on fuel and electricity prices were lifted on 3 November. Two weeks later, while the domestic transportation tariffs were soaring, the government also liberalised the official hard currency rates for a number of import goods. Prices of medicines immediately doubled and in some cases even tripled. International flight tariffs rose by more than 150 per cent.

Many young Sudanese, in particular women, went to the streets in protest against the new measures. Although the Health Minister announced a reduction of medicine prices on Friday 25 November, a large number of people in Khartoum responded to the call by activists for a three-day civil disobedience strike two days later.

Detentions, schools closed

The Sudanese Teachers' Committee reported on Wednesday that the Khartoum state Ministry of Education has withdrawn the licenses of two basic schools in Khartoum North because of the students’ participation in the recent protests.

Security officers detained many members of the opposition, in particular of the Sudanese Congress Party, young protesters and activists, and journalists to curb any criticism of the austerity measures. A private TV channel was banned, and print-runs of several newspapers that reported about the price hikes and protests were confiscated.

During a protest of lawyers in Khartoum on Wednesday, against the many “unlawfully detained people” in the country, security agents detained a correspondent and two cameramen of the USA-based satellite TV channel Alhurra, and seized their equipment.

Power

The secretary-general of the Communist Party commented on the Presidency’s refusal to accept the memorandum by saying that “The regime’s shameful position towards the public actions just indicates fear as it is now threatened from various sides”.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Ibrahim Ayoub (1985-1986), who also signed the memorandum, told this station that the regime's attempts to stay in power will fail in the end. “This time, the people will be able to take power in their own hands again.”

Signatory Dr Mohamed Mahjoub, Chairman of the Liberal Unionists Party, emphasised that “The country is living in a real crisis to the extent that Al Bashir has to step down and hand over power to the people.”

Mohamed Abu Ras, Deputy-Chair of the Arab Socialist Party told Radio Dabanga that the opposition “will adhere to peaceful ways to build a democratic Sudan.

“The Presidency’s refusal to receive the memorandum confirms that the government is not interested in a real dialogue. Though the civil disobedience actions are making Khartoum quite nervous,” he said.


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