Protests Reach Sudan Leader's Door as Calls to Resign Mount

(Bloomberg) -- Protesters maintained a sit-in outside Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s residence for a third day, urging the army to back their uprising against the long-time ruler as the North African nation’s political unrest entered a new stage.

Security forces fired tear gas early Monday in a bid to disperse the thousands-strong crowds at military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, where the 75-year-old president has a home. Soldiers later closed roads around the sit-in, which some activists said protected them from attacks that have left seven people dead since Saturday.

“We are not less than the Algerians -- we’ve made sacrifices to maintain our dignity and bring freedom and democracy,” said protester Nasur Ahmed, referring to recent unrest that forced Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years in power. “Al-Bashir and his entire inner circle should step down now.”

The gathering took place to mark the anniversary of a 1985 uprising that led to Sudan’s army overthrowing then-President Gaafar al-Nimeiri. Al-Bashir, who’s ruled since a 1989 coup, is facing almost four months of nationwide protests sparked by soaring living costs in which more than 45 people have died, according to rights groups. Authorities acknowledge some of the grievances but insist elections are the only path to change.

Clashes erupted Tuesday morning as Sudanese government militias and security forces attacked protesters staging a sit-in in front of the military headquarters, witnesses said. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, an independent medical group, said in a statement that two army soldiers had been killed.

The Sudanese Professional Association, a coalition of opposition groups, has accused the militias and security of using their power to repress the sit-in. In a statement Tuesday, the SPA called on all Sudanese people to march towards the military headquarters to ease the blockade around the protesters. Al-Bashir chaired a meeting of his ruling party Monday night, insisting his country would overcome the current crisis, according to a party statement.

The Freedom and Change Alliance, a loose coalition of opposition parties, rebel groups and an informal union of professionals, in a statement urged the army to abandon its support for the current government and back the calls for democracy.

Guarding Stability

Sudan’s army stands behind the government, First Vice President and Defense Minister Ahmed Awad ibn Auf said Monday. The military is “the guardian of the country’s stability, security and its leadership, and would never abandon its responsibilities,” he said in a statement, criticizing attempts to “sabotage the unity of the national army.”

In a separate statement, the chief of staff, Kamal Abdul Maarof, said the army, security forces and police “are working together in harmony.”

“One people, one army,” protesters chanted outside the military’s HQ, where they’ve established supplies of food and water and a field hospital. “The army is with us, so we don’t care.”

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