Activists arrested as Sudan police disperse march

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese security agents yesterday arrested several opposition leaders and activists as hundreds of anti-government protesters trying to march on the presidential palace were dispersed with tear gas, witnesses said.

Demonstrators chanting “freedom, peace, justice” reached downtown Khartoum but were confronted by riot police, witnesses said, adding that several dissidents were detained by plainclothes security agents.

Rabah al-Mahdi from the main opposition National Umma Party said that at least 26 campaigners and opposition leaders had been arrested.

The Sudanese Professionals Association that is spearheading the protest campaign had called on demonstrators to march on the palace to hand over a demand for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

Witnesses said riot police dispersed the march using tear gas before it could reach the palace.

Employees of two telecommunication companies, MTN and Zain, also staged separate sit-ins in support of protesters in the capital yesterday, witnesses said.

For more than two months, protesters have held near-daily demonstrations against Bashir’s government, accusing it of economic mismanagement that has led to soaring inflation and shortages of foreign currency.

Protests broke out on December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread and swiftly escalated into rallies against Bashir’s iron-fisted rule stretching back three decades.

Officials said 31 people have died in protest-related violence, while Human Rights Watch said at least 51 people have been killed.

Bashir, 75, has remained defiant, vowing to promote peace and economic development across the country.