Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sudan's Bashir Declares State of Emergency, Dissolves Government Amid Persistent Protests
Menna Alaa El-Din
Friday 22 Feb 2019

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a nationwide state of emergency for one year on Friday and dissolved the central and state governments in an unexpected move, nearly two months after the eruption of widespread protests decrying his leadership over failure to mend economic woes.

He also asked the parliament to postpone discussions on constitutional amendments in a public speech which saw him address both "supporters and opponents" in a rare conciliatory approach.

The amendments were to see al-Bashir running for another term as nearly daily protests in Sudan, which initially erupted in December over rising food prices and cash shortages, grew against his near 30-year rule.

Human rights advocates say around 60 people have been killed since December, while Sudanese authorities set the death toll at 32, including three security personnel.

"There is no alternative to dialogue," al-Bashir said in an unfamiliar outlook where he did not ridicule the protests or its organizers' over their use of social media to mobilize the demonstrations.

The Sudanese President has previously stood defiant in a previous address in front of a supporters rally, often choosing to mock the protests instead.

"What I’m providing is a framework for a solution, but not a solution [in itself]," he said, calling for constructive dialogue in the coming days with everyone, including opposition abroad.

He said such a dialogue "would avert our state from conflicts", adding that the country "acknowledges the youths' legitimate demands and dreams as they represent the future."

"This is a hard and complex stage in our history. We will come out from this stage more powerful and more united and determined to build our aspiring and stable state," he added.

Al-Bashir described the demonstrations as ones which were bearing "legitimate demands" until attempts by some to "exploit such demands through agendas to lead the state to an unknown fate."

His speech came a few hours after the country's intelligence chief said the strongman will step down as the chairman of the ruling National Congress Party, also announcing that he will not run for president in elections lined up for 2020.

Earlier on Friday, security forces fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the government following prayers at a major mosque near the Sudanese capital.

There have been no immediate reactions from opposition over the speech, which came contrary to leaks suggesting al-Bashir's authority would be reduced.

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