Sudan declares state of emergency, disbands Cabinet

CAIRO (AP) – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, facing deadly protests, on Friday declared a state of emergency for a year, disbanded the federal government and replaced all state governors with senior army officers.

Al-Bashir – who seized power in a 1989 coup – also said that he will postpone pushing for constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek a third term in office.

Facing genocide charges, al-Bashir’s rule has been rocked by civil wars and increasing street demonstrations. A heavy security crackdown has left scores of protesters dead. At least 57 people have been killed since last December.

“Our country is passing through a difficult and complicated phase in our national history,” al-Bashir said in a speech aired live from the presidential palace in Khartoum. “We will get out of it stronger and more united and determined.”

In a rare acknowledgment, al-Bashir described the demands of the protesters as “legitimate” but said there are attempts to exploit the youth protests “to take the country to the unknown”.

The state of emergency will give the security forces a free hand in cracking down on protesters and carrying out detentions, and places heavier restrictions on the press and opposition parties.

The announcements were instantly met with street demonstrations, demanding the longtime President to step down. Witnesses said riot police fired tear gas and arrested a number of protesters.

Sudan has been gripped by nationwide protests since December 19 last year. The demonstrations, which show no sign of abating, were triggered by rising prices and shortages but quickly turned to calls for al-Bashir to step down.