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Sudan’s Bashir declares year-long state of emergency

“I will not stop calling for all parties to sit at the dialogue table,” Bashir said, adding he would remain on the “side of the youth who represent the future of Sudan

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared a year-long state of emergency, dissolving his cabinet and local governments throughout the country.

In a televised address on Friday, Bashir also called on Sudan’s parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term in a presidential election in 2020.

Acknowledging the popular protests that have rocked his administration in recent months, the 75-year-old said the “demands of our people for better living conditions are lawful”.

“I will not stop calling for all parties to sit at the dialogue table,” Bashir said, adding he would remain on the “side of the youth who represent the future of Sudan”.

Bashir’s announcement on Friday followed months of nearly daily protests against his rule, with thousands of people taking to the streets across the country since December 19 to call for him to stand down after nearly three decades in office.

While the protests were initially set off by the rising cost of bread and fuel in the north of Sudan, they quickly grew into a demand for more political freedoms and an end to Bashir’s rule.

The Sudanese leader’s term ends in 2020 and he has repeatedly promised over the years not to make new runs for the presidency. Without amending the country’s constitution, he can not run for a third term.

Months of protests

His announcement came days after a parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution to scrap Sudan’s presidential term limit canceled its meetings.

The demonstrations against Bashir continued on Friday.

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who marched and chanted anti-government slogans following Friday prayers at a major mosque near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, eyewitnesses said.

Activists say nearly 60 people have been killed since the protests began, while authorities put the death toll at 31.

Sudan: A crumbling regime puts the squeeze on the media

Hundreds of protesters, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists have also been jailed by the widely-feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said it would likely become increasingly difficult for protesters to continue their demonstrations as the state of emergency kicks in.

“As per Sudan’s constitution, the state of emergency gives the police, the security forces and the military the right to search without warrant, to raid houses and arrest anybody they deem a threat to the country’s national security and economic development and stability,” Morgan said.

“Bashir also said that those protesting have been infiltrated by agents with foreign agendas and that they are people who want to destabilise the country. With that being said and with the state of emergency in place, it is likely that more force will be used against protesters,” she added.

Organisers of anti-government protests across Sudan vowed to press on with their demonstrations until Bashir steps down, however.

“We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which is spearheading the campaign, just after Bashir announced a state of emergency across the country.

Spiralling inflation

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, which he denies. He has been lobbying for Sudan to be removed from a list of countries Washington deems state sponsors of terrorism.

The listing has blocked the investment and financial aid that Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, economists say.

Sudan has been rapidly expanding its money supply in an attempt to finance its budget deficit, causing spiralling inflation and a steep decline in the value of its currency.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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