Sudanese demonstrators took to the streets for a fifth day over the government’s near-doubling of gasoline prices, with some protest leaders focusing their ire on the quarter-century rule of President Umar al-Bashir.
Security forces opened fire on protesters in Khartoum’s al-Seteen street, leaving an unspecified number of people dead and wounded, Al Arabiya television reported. A communist leader was detained at the capital’s international airport, the channel said. The broadcaster also reported it offices in the city were shut by authorities.
State media said 600 demonstrators were arrested and will stand trial next week. Rights groups including Amnesty International and the African Centre for Justice and Peace said at least 50 people were killed in protests on Sept. 24 and 25, while medical officials put the number at 67.
Sudan’s economy contracted 4.4 percent last year after newly independent South Sudan took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of 490,000 barrels a day. The country’s cabinet announced on Sept. 23 that it would cut fuel subsidies, lifting the cost of gasoline to 14 pounds ($3.17) per gallon from 8 pounds, while public transportation tariffs jumped 26 percent.
In today’s protests, about 200 people also marched in the city of Omdurman, near Khartoum, chanting for the removal of the regime and “Fly, fly, Bashir,” according to local residents Ahmed Adel, 23, and Yousseff al-Ghaly, 34, reached by phone. Activists and opposition groups including the Umma Party and the Sudan Change Now youth group called for protests after Friday prayers in the Muslim North African nation.
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.
“It’s not about prices anymore,” Khaled Omar, spokesman for Sudan Change Now, said in a phone interview from Khartoum. “Scrapping subsidies was just the spark. People are fed up with this oppressive regime. What were seeing is the accumulation of 24 years of corruption, injustice and oppression.”
Bashir defended the decision to raise fuel prices, saying the subsidies threatened the economy more than removing them. Sudan’s economy may expand 1.2 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Consumer inflation was 22.9 percent in August, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.