KHARTOUM Oct 12 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Sudanese took to the streets of
central Khartoum on Tuesday to demonstrate against high food prices and to
demand better public transport, witnesses said.
Protests are rare in Sudan but anger has been building over an economic
crisis and spiralling inflation after the country lost most of its oil
reserves to newly-independent South Sudan.
About 300 people protested in the main bus and taxi station in Khartoum to
demand better public transport, witnesses said. Students from the university
faculties joined the crowd to protest against food inflation.
"The students shouted: 'No to high prices. Bread, bread for the poor," a
witness said, declining to be identified. Police arrived at the scene but
did not interfere, he said.
Hundreds of people also protested at a bus station in the suburb of
Omdurman, another witness said. The protesters then marched on a Nile bridge
linking Omdurman with Khartoum and started throwing stones at private cars
and police vehicles, the witness said.
Police said in a statement that a group of citizens had thrown stones at
cars crossing the bridge, adding that it had prevented "acts of sabotage."
Sudan has a poor public transport system with commuters mostly relying on
private taxis and mini-buses which struggle to meet demand and often get
accused of overcharging.
Many Sudanese have been hit hard by inflation which reached 20.7 percent in
September due to high food prices, while the Sudanese pound has dived on the
black market in past weeks.
The government has reacted with a package of measures, including temporarily
waiving duties on basic food imports.
But economists doubt inflation will ease much as Sudan lost most of its oil
reserves when South Sudan became independent, reducing the inflow of foreign
currency needed to pay for imports, leading to scarcities.
The economy is dependent on oil and small-scale gold exports. The government
wants to diversify the economy but progress has been slow, which experts
blame on U.S. trade sanctions and poor planning. (Reporting by Khalid
Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing)
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Received on Wed Oct 12 2011 - 17:11:11 EDT