After two months of protests, the biggest since he came to power three decades ago, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, Friday, declared a one-year state of emergency. He also said he would dissolve the central and state governments and asked that parliament postponed constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek re-election in 2020.
“I extend a sincere invitation to the opposition forces, who are still outside the path of national reconciliation … to move forward and engage in the dialogue regarding the current issues of our country,” Bashir said in a televised speech which started after security forces reportedly fired tear gas to disperse at least 200 protesters in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.
The president also set up a caretaker administration, noting that “firm economic measures should be taken in a new government”.
Protests began in December, as demonstrators irked by an increase in the price of bread and fuel after government lifted subsidies, set the ruling party headquarters in the city of Atbara ablaze, with protesters calling on President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
With the protests seeming to weaken the authority of Bashir and political Islam in Sudan, analysts have said the Sudanese strong man’s options are thinning out, leaving him to mediate, step down or use force. It is clear the option Bashir would take.
However, Bashir’s decision to declare a state of emergency seem to strengthen the resolve of the protesters. Reuters, citing a witness, reports that angry protesters in the city of Omdurman chanted “Freedom!” and put tyres on fire, while others blocked a main road. The main organiser of the protests, Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) told protesters to continue demonstrations.
“The demands of this revolution are clear […] foremost that this regime and its head step aside, including its repressive institutions,” the SPA said in a statement.
One of the main opposition groups, the National Consensus Forces also called for more protests.
“The regime declared a state of emergency to counter our popular revolution, which will not stop, God willing, before we achieve our goals and topple the regime,” the group said in a statement.
Although his body language shows he is not ready to relinquish power, Bashir has previously challenged his rivals to unseat him through the ballot box, blaming the protests on foreign “agents”.