Sudan Protesters Bury Comrade as Death Toll Rises in Crackdown
Sudanese mourners buried a protester they say was shot by security forces amid signs that at least five days of outbursts against rising fuel prices are escalating into a broader demonstration against the government.
Marchers chanted slogans against President Umar al-Bashir as they carried the body of a pharmacist, Salah Sanhouri, who they say was killed yesterday in the capital Khartoum, according to participants. After the funeral, security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd as it entered the city’s main al-Seteen street, Khaled Omar, a spokesman for Sudan Change Now, and Noor El-Din Salah El-Din, a spokesman for the opposition Popular Congress Party, said today by telephone.
The government says fuel subsidies aggravate inflation and cause other harm to the economy, and al-Bashir’s cabinet on Sept. 23 announced a plan to remove them. The decision raises the cost of gasoline to 14 pounds ($3.17) a gallon from 8 pounds, while public transportation tariffs jump 26 percent. Accounts vary of the death toll from violence in ensuing protests, with Ahmed al-Sheikh, the head of Sudan’s Doctors Syndicate saying today in a phone interview from the capital that at least 111 people were killed in Khartoum state alone from Sept. 23 to Sept. 26.
Police put the tally for the same period much lower, at 29, a figure that includes policemen and deaths elsewhere in the country, the state-run SUNA news agency reported yesterday. An additional four people were shot dead since then by “unknown gunmen,” police said, according to a SUNA report today. Rights groups including Amnesty International and the African Centre for Justice and Peace said at least 50 people were killed in demonstrations on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25.
“The protests this time are so big, and the government is shocked,” Reem Shawky, a blogger, said today by phone from Omdurman, a city adjacent to Khartoum. “That’s why they’re using every violent means to counter. But that won’t work. Violence actually makes people more determined to oust this regime.”
Bashir has ruled Sudan since coming to power in a 1989 coup. The 69-year-old leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of responsibility for genocide and war crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
Minister of Interior Ibrahim Mahmoud accused some political parties of “using recent incidents to achieve political gains,” according to Sudan’s al-Raay Al-Aam newspaper. The government described the demonstrations as limited and said it will remove the subsidies regardless.
The Sudanese Journalists Network, an independent trade union, announced an open-ended strike today to protest the government’s “attempts to silence media coverage of protests,” it said in a statement. Authorities yesterday began confiscating copies of independent newspapers Al-Majhar Al-Seyassi, Al-Watan, and Al-Sudani, according to the statement.
Local offices of the Al-Arabiya and Sky News channels were closed down by authorities in Khartoum yesterday, the Arabic-language broadcasters said.
“Scrapping fuel was only the tipping point,” Faisal Saleh, a political commentator for Khartoum Daily newspaper, said by phone from the capital. “We’re talking decades of oppression, corruption and war.”
Sudan’s economy shrank 4.4 percent in 2012 after newly independent South Sudan took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of 490,000 barrels a day. The economy also endured a loss of revenue after South Sudan halted crude production in January 2012 in a dispute over export fees that brought the two countries close to war.
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