Thousands of people rallied on Monday in Sudan’s capital and several other cities to protest against rapid deterioration in living conditions, including a sharp rise in the price of bread, and to demand a return to civilian rule.
The protests came amid a worsening economic situation, with most of the country’s 44 million people struggling in the face of steep increases in prices, partially caused by the depreciation of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar.
The latest surge came on Sunday, when the price of bread, the main food staple for most Sudanese, rose by more than 40 per cent, from 35 to 50 Sudanese pounds (5-8 cents) a loaf.
The higher bread price came after an increase in the cost of petrol and electricity, both affecting a range of goods and services, such as fresh farm produce and transport charges.
“The economic situation is so bad that Sudan should no longer be compared to other countries. We should compare it to life in hell,” said Othman Bashir, 43, a protester in the capital Khartoum.
“The situation is catastrophic,” said Noha Mohammed, who was also protesting in the city. “We are unable to meet our basic demands. Meat and fruit have become luxuries we simply cannot afford.”
Another protester, Khartoum taxi driver and father-of-five Al Hadi Ahmed, said the price of almost everything rose because of the declining value of the pound and higher fuel prices.
“Everything just shot up,” he said.
Sudan’s long-battered economy showed encouraging signs of recovery on the eve of a military coup last year that toppled a civilian-led government and derailed the country’s democratic transition after the ousting in April 2019 of dictator Omar Al Bashir.
The subsequent suspension of western aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars has sent the economy reeling, wiping out the small gains made over the previous two years and pushing the country back to the international isolation it suffered under Al Bashir’s 29-year rule.
The October 25 coup sparked a series of mass street protests across the vast Afro-Arab nation to demand a return to civilian rule and for the military to quit politics. Nearly 90 protesters have been killed, most shot by security forces, and thousands were injured in those protests.
In Khartoum on Monday, witnesses said security forces opened fire to disperse the protesters although there were no immediate reports of casualties.
"Down with military rule," protesters chanted in Damazin, a city 450 kilometres south-east of the capital.
In Nyala, state capital of South Darfur in the west, security forces fired a barrage of teargas canisters to disperse crowds.
"No to rising costs," protesters shouted in Nyala, as well as, "No to military rule".
"The situation has become intolerable," said Hamad Bashir from the railway city of Atbara, a traditional hotbed of dissent 280 kilometres north-east of Khartoum. He said rail workers had not been paid for two months.
Employees began a strike on Sunday, said head of the Railway Workers' Union Hashem Khedr.
Protests took place on Monday in Wad Madani, south of the capital, and in Kassala in the east.