Omar Al Bashir says Sudan protesters trying to copy Arab Spring

Sudanese president holds talks with Egyptian counterpart in Cairo

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shakes hands with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir at Cairo's Airport, Egypt, January 27, 2019, in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

President Omar Al Bashir on Sunday accused protesters in Sudan of trying to copy the Arab uprisings of 2011 and said the problems facing his country were being exaggerated.

Speaking in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Mr Al Bashir blamed "harmful organisations" for working to destabilise the region.

"We do not claim there is no problem, but it is not of the size or dimensions that some of the media portray," he said at a press conference with the Egyptian president.

"This is an attempt to copy the Arab Spring in Sudan, these are the same slogans and appeals and the very wide use of social media sites."

Mr Al Bashir is facing the strongest challenge to his rule since seizing power in 1989, with near daily protests staged across the country after his government tripled the price of bread on December 19.

The protesters are calling for Mr Al Bashir to step down, citing soaring inflation, cash shortages and deteriorating public services under his government.

One of the slogans used by the protesters – "The people want the fall of the regime" – was made famous by uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab states.

Sudanese security forces have cracked down on the protests using tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition, and have arrested hundreds of people including activists, journalists and doctors. The official death toll so far is 30 but rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed.

On Sunday, protesters tried to stage sit-ins in several squares in the capital Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman, responding to a call by the Sudanese Professionals Association which is leading the protest campaign.

A massive deployment of riot police and security agents prevented them from gathering at several locations, witnesses said, after which the protesters began rallies in three residential areas of Khartoum and two in Omdurman, across the Nile.

Police surrounded many district squares and also filled some with muddy water to prevent demonstrators from gathering, witnesses said.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of doctors, engineers and teachers, has called for simultaneous rallies across the country until Wednesday.

Mr Al Bashir's visit to Egypt was his second trip abroad since the protests began, following a visit to Qatar earlier this month.