Protests over rising prices spread to Sudan’s Khartoum

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Protests over rising prices spread to Sudan’s Khartoum

At least eight people have been killed in protests that have swept across Sudan on Thursday over the rising costs of bread and fuel. 

According to Gadarif’s city’s commissioner who spoke to Sudania 24 private TV channel, six people died in demonstrations in the city. Two people died in Nile River state, a spokesman for the state told the same channel. 

Mubarak al-Nur, a member of parliament, said a state of emergency has been declared in Gadarif due to the protests.

“The situation in Gadarif is out of control now,” he said. “The protests have evolved to include cases of burning and looting,” he added, saying that protesters had burned down a ruling party building.

A state of emergency has also been declared in Atbara, about 320km north of the capital Khartoum, after protesters set the ruling National Conference Party offices on fire. 

Protests also spread to several other cities, including Khartoum and Port Sudan. In the capital, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters. 

There were reports of fatalities among protesters in Atbara and Dongola, but these could not be independently confirmed. At least 20 protesters were also arrested on Thursday.

Residents told Al Jazeera that the protests were triggered after bread prices increased from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.063).

Demonstrators are calling for the “overthrow of the regime”, a slogan that was common during the Arab Spring uprisings that swept through the region in 2011.

Hatem al-Wassilah, the governor of the Nile River state, told Sudania 24 TV that a curfew will be imposed in Atbara from 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) to 6am (4:00 GMT).

Scenes from anti-Gov demonstrations in the city of Atbara in north east Sudan triggered by bread crisis. pic.twitter.com/lJ9pysJfP7

— Wasil Ali (@wasilalitaha) December 19, 2018

“The protests began peacefully and then turned to violence and vandalism … We declared a state of emergency and a curfew and the closure of schools in the city,” he said.

Prices triple

Bread prices have more than tripled since the start of this year after the government decided to stop importing wheat from overseas.

Officials had hoped the move would create competition between private companies importing wheat, and therefore act as a check on price rises – but a number of bakeries have since stopped production, citing a lack of flour.

This forced the government to increase flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.

In October, Sudan sharply devalued its currency from 29 pounds to the dollar to 47.5 after a body of banks and money changers set the country’s exchange rate.

The move led to further price increases and a liquidity crunch, while the gap between the official and black market rates has continued to widen.

Sudan lost between 75 and 80 percent of its oil reserves in 2011 after the southern part of the country became an independent nation, denying the north billions of dollars in revenues.

In a separate development on Wednesday, leading opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to the country after nearly a year in self-imposed exile.

Mahdi was overthrown in 1989 by a group of military commanders close to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir‘s National Congress Party.

“The regime has failed and there is economic deterioration and erosion of the national currency’s value,” Mahdi, who heads the Umma party, told thousands of his supporters.

His party has argued that Bashir must go in order to improve the country’s image abroad and attract crucial investment and aid.

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