Sudan opposition threatens protests over price hikes

Reuters, Monday 17 Jan 2011

Emergency measures to address Sudan's economic crisis prompts calls for protests

Sudan protests

Sudan's opposition threatened on Sunday to take to the streets if the government did not remove its finance minister and dismantle parliament over the decision to raise prices on a range of goods.

Khartoum announced emergency measures earlier this month to redress its budget deficit, including a reduction in subsidies for petroleum products and hikes in the price of sugar.

The price increases have sparked student protests in the country's northern agricultural heartland.

"We demand the sacking of the finance minister who was not honest in his budget presentation and dismantling of the parliament which passed the price rises without even questioning the finance minister," a statement from the opposition coalition of around 20 parties said.

Opposition official Kamal Omer said the heads of the parties would meet on Wednesday to plan the street protests, saying they were "ready to fight for change and are preparing for our popular revolution."

The threat comes at a politically sensitive time for the government of President Omar Hassan al Bashir, who stands to lose control over the oil-producing south in a referendum agreed as part of a 2005 peace deal to end a north-south civil war.

Sudan is also suffering from a deep economic crisis. Bashir's government has spent heavily on defence, while increasing its debt and imports to cover a fall in local production, leading to foreign exchange shortages, rising inflation and a weakening Sudanese pound.

Sudan's opposition is still smarting from an electios last April which handed Bashir's party a major victory and a parliamentary majority which will allow them to change the constitution if the south secedes.

Most of the opposition boycotted the election, accusing the rulling National Congress Party (NCP) of widespread fraud. Observers said the polls did not meet international standards.

The NCP has warned the opposition that street protests will not be tolerated. Khartoum blames the country's economic woes on the global financial crisis and speculation about the south's secession.

Sudan's youth, inspired by Tunisia where weeks of popular protests swept its president from power, on Saturday began a peaceful movement on social networking sites calling for people to stand outside their houses everyday at 7 p.m.

The event attracted more than 2,000 members on Facebook in its first day.

Sudan was the last Arab state to stage a popular uprising in 1985, toppling former President Jaafar Nimeiri.

Short link: