February 24, 2019
Tear gas fumes erupting during a protest in the Sudanese capital Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Jan 9, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir swore in a new premier Sunday (Feb 24) as riot police confronted hundreds of demonstrators calling on the veteran leader to resign after he imposed a state of emergency across the country.
Bashir declared a year-long emergency on Friday (Feb 22) after a deadly crackdown failed to suppress weeks of protests against his three-decade rule.
The president, who swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, dissolved the cabinet and provincial governments, and pledged to bring in technocrats to help end the economic crisis – the key factor behind the protests.
On Sunday, the former governor of the agricultural state of Jazeera, Mohamed Tahir Eila, was sworn in as the new prime minister at a ceremony, an AFP photographer said.
Defence Minister General Awad Ibnouf was sworn in as the first vice president after his predecessor Bakri Hassan Saleh was sacked by Bashir.
Bashir also swore in 16 army officers and two officers from the National Intelligence and Security Service dressed in military uniforms as new governors for the country’s 18 provinces.
“Today, a new chapter begins in Sudan’s history,” Bashir, dressed in a military uniform, said at the ceremony.
“This chapter needs special people like you to lead… in order to guarantee security and stability in the country.” Bashir is expected to announce an entire new cabinet as he pushes on with sweeping top level changes in the face of nationwide protests that have rocked his rule.
‘MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT’
Even as the new officials took oath, hundreds of protesters rallied in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum, against the state of emergency.
“We want to give the president a message that the state of emergency will not deter us,” said Sawsan Bashir who participated in the Omdurman rally.
“Our aim is to overthrow this regime and we will do it.” Protesters also demonstrated in the capital’s districts of Burri and Shambat, according to witnesses.
Riot police swiftly confronted protesters in Omdurman and Burri with tear gas, witnesses said.
Protest organisers have vowed to continue with daily rallies, accusing Bashir and his officials of economic mismanagement that has led to soaring food prices and shortage of foreign currency.
Deadly clashes between protesters and security forces have left 31 people dead since protests first erupted on Dec 19, officials say.
Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed including medics and children.
Demonstrations initially erupted in the labour town of Atbara after a government decision to triple the price of bread.
But the rallies swiftly escalated into protests against Bashir’s iron-fisted rule, with protesters calling for his resignation.
Eila vowed to work towards tackling the economic crisis.
“We hope we can offer job opportunities to our youths so that they can achieve their aspirations,” Eila told reporters after he was sworn in.
Bashir and other Sudanese officials have acknowledged that the majority of the protesters were young men and women who want better economic conditions.
Analysts say the state of emergency was an act of desperation in the face of public anger, and a more violent confrontation between security forces and protesters could not be ruled out.
Sudan’s economic woes have worsened amid a shortage of foreign currency since South Sudan became independent in 2011, taking with it the bulk of oil earnings.
The resulting shortages in basic goods have fuelled spiralling inflation that has devastated the purchasing power and living standards of ordinary Sudanese from agricultural labourers to middle-class professionals.