Sudan's Omar al-Bashir declares state of emergency

REUTERS  Stringer

REUTERS Stringer

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Friday declared a one-year nationwide state of emergency and dissolved the government in an effort to quell weeks of demonstrations.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide committed during the conflict in Darfur.

The 75-year-old authoritarian president also called on parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would have allowed him to run for another term in 2020.

Deadly protests have rocked the east African country since December 19, with demonstrators accusing the government of mismanaging the nation's economy and calling on the veteran leader to step down.

Bashir's announcement on Friday followed months of almost daily protests against his rule, with thousands of people taking to the streets across the country since December 19 to call for him to stand down after almost three decades in office.

Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir at a rally last month in the capital, Khartoum.

Mr Bashir also said the demonstrations were an attempt to destabilise the country.

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Protesters took to the streets after the announcement in the city of Omdurman, witnesses said, but were met with tear gas by police. "With that being said and with the state of emergency in place, it is likely that more force will be used against protesters", she added. The demonstrations were triggered by price increases and cash shortages but quickly developed into protests against Bashir's three-decade rule. Without amending the constitution, he can't run for a third term.

His announcement came days after a parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution to scrap Sudan's presidential term limit canceled its meetings.

Activists say almost 60 people have been killed since the protests began, while authorities put the death toll at 31.

However, al-Bashir warned the opposition of the "zero-sum" game that creates chaos, pointing to a wave of the Arab Spring uprisings that led to civil wars in countries like Libya and Yemen.

As he was speaking in the presidential palace in Khartoum and in other districts, dozens of protesters were already taking to the streets chanting, "just fall".

Those arrested included Mohamed Mokhtar al-Khatib, the general-secretary of the Communist Party, and three leading members of the Umma Party, said Rabah Sadiq al-Mahdi, daughter of Sadiq al-Mahdi who heads the Umma Party, the largest opposition party. "Declaring a state of emergency means suppressing freedom of expression and demonstration and tightening grip on the revolution".

Sudan's main opposition groups call for a four-year transitional government followed by elections.

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