File photo: citizen journalism photo provided by the group Grifina, purports to show tires burning during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan. Sudanese security forces used tear gas to break up anti-regime demonstrations in Khartoum (Photo: AP)
Demonstrations and protests pervaded the Sudanese capital Khartoum and 15 cities around the world Thursday in protest against President Omar Al-Bashir's staying in power amid a strict security clampdown.
Coinciding with the 23rdr anniversary of the coup by Al-Bashir, the protests have been dubbed "The protest of elbow-licking," to mock the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) which famously used the Sudanese idiom "Only if you can lick your elbows" (an Arabic equivalent to the popular American saying, "When pigs fly") to dismiss the possibility of an Arab Spring-style uprising against the ruling regime.
Sudanese opposition sources told Ahram Online that protesters in Thursday's demonstration were mobilised in "unprecedented" numbers despite the arrest of hundreds of civilians by regime security forces.
The sources accused the NCP of attempting to undermine the popular movement, mobilising large numbers of security forces and spreading a "climate of fear" through continuous discussion about the possible rise of an Islamist mujahideen to power if Al-Bashir is forced to leave.
Meanwhile, protests took place in 15 cities around the world in solidarity with Sudanese protesters, condemning Al-Bashir's regime and demanding it give up power.
Protests were witnessed in Dallas, New York, Washington DC, Toronto, London, Paris, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra and Cairo, among other cities.
Bashir Adam Rahma, foreign affairs official in the NCP, told Ahram Online that the opposition agreed upon the urgent necessity of ending Al-Bashir's rule and the arrangements of a two-year transitional phase.
Rahma revealed a consensus among opposition spheres regarding the formation of a civil, presidential council representing the seven provinces of Sudan, a ministerial council and a 100-member, appointed, not elected, parliament. The first priority for such political bodies will be achieving peace in all "inflamed areas" in Sudan, such as Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, and settling all disputed issues with South Sudan.
"The Sudanese nation cannot afford the economic cost of all these conflicts; this is why we should put an end to them," Rahma added.
He stated that the overthrow of Al-Bashir and his collaborators via "peaceful change" would pave the way to addressing corruption and attracting foreign investment in the economically-exhausted country.
Popular protests sparked by austerity measures aimed at reducing the government's $2.4bn budget deficit have spread from the capital Khartoum to other areas of the country, transcending mere student activism to include calls for an uprising to end the Al-Bashir regime.
Security forces have used teargas, rubber bullets, batons and live ammunition in an effort to suppress the growing tide of demonstrations sweeping the country for the past two weeks. Scenes in Khartoum last week recalled recent events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, with teargas, burning tyres and rock-strewn streets.
Chanting the slogan made famous by the Arab Spring — "The people want the fall of the regime" — men, women and children in some areas fought back against police who bombarded them with teargas and rubber bullets.
"We’re calling on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to step down," Dalia Al-Haj Omar, spokeswoman for the Girifna opposition movement, told Ahram Online via email.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday urged Sudanese authorities to end the crackdown on anti-government protests, which have led to the arrest and detention of reporters and protesters. "Authorities should end the violence immediately and respect the people's right to protest peacefully," HRW declared in a statement.