Sudan's Al-Bashir Declares State of Emergency for One Year

(Bloomberg) -- Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir declared a state of emergency for one year and called a national dialogue amid political crisis in the north African country.

"It’s better for all Sudanese to solve any problems through dialogue," al-Bashir said Friday in a televised address from the capital, Khartoum. “Civil and armed opposition” should come to the dialogue, he said.

The president dissolved the central and regional governments, and asked lawmakers to postpone proposed constitutional amendments that would let him stand for re-election in a scheduled 2020 vote. While “some have exploited the protests to cause hate and violence,” al-Bashir said, “we understand the demands of the youths.”

Before al-Bashir’s speech, his intelligence chief, Salah Gosh, told reporters that the president planned to step down as leader of the ruling National Congress Party, and wouldn’t seek re-election.

Unrest that began in mid-December in response to soaring living costs has posed one of the biggest challenges to al-Bashir, 75, since he seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.

Sudan's Al-Bashir Declares State of Emergency for One Year

Thousands of Sudanese went to the streets in a fresh wave of protests after the Friday speech, chanting anti-al-Bashir slogans, while some demanded that he immediately step down as president.

Professionals Protest

The Sudan Professionals Association, a clandestine group that emerged on the opposition front, is leading a so-called Freedom and Change movement. Protests coincide with an economic crisis that’s hitting the middles class and the poor as fuel, wheat and cash shortages contribute to inflation reaching 70 percent.

Earlier this month, several groups, including farmers’ unions, youth movements and civil society organizations joined the professionals-led opposition to intensify protests against al-Bashir. The government retaliated with a crackdown and several arrests including 16 university professors who were accused of planning a demonstration.

Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman last month declared the professionals association illegal and vowed to rein in its activities. Amnesty International, which accused Sudanese security forces of a “deadly onslaught,” said more than 40 people have been killed in the protests since mid-December.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.