The protest movement that began in Sudan six days ago has gained momentum on Friday with serious demonstrations taking place throughout the day in various parts of the capital Khartoum as well as in other key towns.
Sudanese activists posted dozens of pictures and video footages online showing clashes between protestors and police using tear gas in the streets of Khartoum, the capital of Al-Jazzera State, Madani, and Al-Obayid town in north Kordofan State.
The protests started following Friday prayer in what anti-government activists online termed the “Friday of the Kataha [a Sudanese word for sandstorm]” as part of the “Sudan Revolts” campaign which began on Sunday, 17 June, with demonstrations mainly led by students against rising costs of living.
The demonstrations erupted after the government moved to implement harsh austerity measures including termination of fuel subsidies.
The move has stoked public discontent over economic conditions which have been worsening since the country lost three quarters of its oil production with the secession of South Sudan in July last year.
Anti-government activists blame the situation on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) which they accuse of a long list of failures including widespread corruption, misguided economic policies and warmongering.
Eye witnesses told reporters that several parts of Khartoum on Friday witnessed confrontations between police and security forces on one side and hundreds of protesters chanting slogans calling for the downfall of the regime.
Police and security forces fired heavy tear gas to disperse the protesters and conducted wide arrests among them. At least 16 protesters have been arrested, according to activists.
The most serious zone of demonstration was in Al-Daim area in Khartoum, where protestors managed to occupy main streets and burn two police trucks, according to activists.
Meanwhile the government continue to deny widespread protests, Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) reported that the police had managed to contain “limited protests” in the capital Khartoum.
SUNA quoted a police statement as saying that a number of citizens “not exceeding 150” had attacked a police patrol which prompted the latter to fire teargas. The statement added that no causalities were reported.
“The situation is under control and the police did not use any fire arms or rubber bullets as has been reported by a number of TV stations,” the statement added.
Similarly, the NCP has downplayed the protest movement saying it is led by “some university students.”
NCP’s spokesman Badr Al-Din Ahmad Ibrahim told the Sudanese Media Center (SMC), a pro-government news website, that the fact that “some university students” took to the streets is of “little significance”
He further accused opposition political parties of standing behind the student protests.
Sudan has hitherto escaped the contagion of popular protests that swept the Middle East and North Africa came to be known as the Arab Spring.
But according to many witnesses, Friday’s protests were perhaps the most serious in the nation’s history since NCP took power 23 years ago.
The US Department of State this week expressed deep concern over Sudan’s crackdown on demonstration, urging Khartoum “to respect the right of its citizens to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in order to raise their grievances”
Amnesty International, a London-based Human Rights group, also called on Sudan to “end ruthless crackdown on protests”