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VoaNews.com: Sudan Tightens Emergency Rule as Protests Grow

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Friday, 01 March 2019

FILE - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is seen during a swearing-in ceremony of new officials after he dissolved the central and state governments in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 24, 2019.
FILE - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is seen during a swearing-in ceremony of new officials after he dissolved the central and state governments in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 24, 2019.
 

The government of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir this week issued four new emergency laws forbidding demonstrations and strikes, as well as imposing new economic restrictions.

The measures came after Bashir announced a state of emergency Feb. 22, two months after demonstrations erupted across the country demanding regime change.

His aim, he said, was to rescue Sudan's political and economic situation.

Sudan's constitution enables the president to declare a state of emergency when there are threats to national security such as a war or natural disaster, says Mohamed Awad, a legal expert and activist.

But Awad says he does not believe that is the case now.

FILE - Sudanese protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum, Feb. 14, 2019.
FILE - Sudanese protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum, Feb. 14, 2019.

"In the current situation, there is no legal need for imposing the emergency. The solution is 100 percent political. Peaceful transfer of power is the solution," Awad said.

The emergency measures include restrictions on transactions involving gold and other national resources, and on money transfers.

The new rules are raising questions among rights groups and protesters, such as student Mohamed Omer.

"Emergency law has always been practiced on us. … The only difference [is] that the authority now has a legal cover under emergency law to do anything, seizing what is left from our freedom," Omer said.

Social media is one of the few places where demonstrators can organize protests or share information, but even those spaces are being affected by the new restrictions. The recently announced measures mean that offenses like insulting a government official or sharing news that authorities believe may "put the country in danger" can bring prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The restrictions appear to be fueling calls for Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, to step down.

"Freedom isn't something challengeable," said one demonstrator in Khartoum. "When we're told to not do something, we do it. This is why the protests are getting bigger. The president should confess and deliver the power and not make new rules to gain time."

Despite the government restrictions, new protests broke out Wednesday at the Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman and at a hospital in Khartoum's Bahri section, where a child died after being hit by a security car. Police pushed back the protest at the university and broke up the one at the hospital.

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Sudan Establishes Emergency Courts, Reshuffles Senior Military Staff

FILE - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir speaks at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 22, 2019.
FILE - Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir speaks at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 22, 2019.

Sudan has established emergency prosecutors and courts nationwide, state news agency SUNA said Tuesday, a day after President Omar al-Bashir announced sweeping new security powers to contend with months of unrest.

Bashir declared a national state of emergency last Friday and sacked state governors, replacing them with officials from the military and security services.

Dozens of doctors staged peaceful protests in the capital Khartoum and other cities Tuesday, chanting slogans in the halls of several public hospitals and demanding that Bashir step down. Hundreds of students also continued protests at Sudan's oldest university for women, in the city of Omdurman.

FILE - Sudanese protesters demonstrate against their government in the capital Khartoum's district of Burri, Feb. 24, 2019.
FILE - Sudanese protesters demonstrate against their government in the capital Khartoum's district of Burri, Feb. 24, 2019.

Neighboring Egypt and some Western countries including the United States expressed concern about the situation in Sudan, which has been shaken by almost daily demonstrations since December over the rising cost of living and other grievances.

As well as having emergency courts set up in every Sudanese state, Bashir also reshuffled some senior military staff on Tuesday. He switched the positions of several members of Sudan's eight-strong military staff council and appointed General Essam al-Din Mubarak as minister of state in the defense ministry.

"These are normal, routine changes that happen from time to time," a military spokesman told Reuters.

A coalition of opposition lawyers denounced Tuesday's moves as unconstitutional.

'Deep concern'

Bashir, who came to power in 1989 in a military coup, issued a raft of edicts Monday banning unlicensed public gatherings and awarding sweeping new powers to police.

Security forces were given the power to search any building, restrict movement of people and public transport, arrest individuals suspected of a crime related to the state of emergency, and seize assets or property during investigations.

The United States, Britain, Norway and Canada issued a joint statement expressing "deep concern" over the situation.

"There remains a clear need for political and economic reform in Sudan that is fully inclusive, and which addresses the legitimate grievances expressed by the protesters," it said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, speaking to Reuters on Tuesday on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council conference in Geneva, said Egypt stood ready to help its southern neighbour if required.

"We believe that the Sudanese and Egyptian peoples have a common history and a common future, and definitely anything that disrupts the security, stability and prosperity of the Sudanese people is of utmost concern to us," Shoukry said.

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