Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was toppled by al-Bashir in 1989, throws his support behind protests that erupted five weeks ago.
Sudan's main opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi has called on President
Omar al-Bashir to step down, throwing his support behind anti-government
demonstrators that started nearly five weeks ago.
"This regime has to go immediately," al-Mahdi, 83, told hundreds of
worshippers at a mosque in Omdurman on Friday, the twin city of the
capital Khartoum, which has seen near-daily anti-government protests.
Al-Mahdi said since protests erupted on December 19 "more than 50 people" had been killed in the crackdown.
Officials say 30 people have died in the protests, however, rights groups have put the death toll at more than 40.
The protests - which initially erupted in the northeastern town of
Atbara and have spread to several cities - initially erupted over the
rising costs of bread and fuel and other economic hardships, including
skyrocketing inflation and limits on bank withdrawals.
But they quickly morphed into calls for al-Bashir, who has been in power for 29 years, to step aside.
Authorities have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to
quell the unrest and imposed emergency laws and night-time curfews in
"A period of transition will come soon... we are supporting this
[protest] movement," said al-Mahdi, who served two terms as Sudan's
prime minister before being deposed in the 1989 coup led by al-Bashir.
'Document for change and freedom'
After nearly a year in exile, al-Mahdi returned to Sudan last month on the same day protests began.
He added on Friday that his party had signed a document with the
Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), an umbrella group of unions
representing doctors, teachers and engineers that is leading the
campaign against al-Bashir's government.
"This is a document for change and freedom," he said.
"Together we will hold peaceful demonstrations in Sudan and outside of
Sudan," he said as he condemned the violence and use of "live
ammunition" against protesters.
A fixture of Sudanese politics since the 1960s, al-Mahdi was prime
minister from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1986 to 1989, before being
toppled by Bashir.
Sudan's economy has struggled to recover in recent years following the
loss of between 75 and 80 percent of its oil reserves - its main source
of foreign currency - with the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
The country's economic woes have been exacerbated in the past few years,
even as the United States lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan
in October 2017.
Washington has, however, kept Sudan on its list of state sponsors of
terrorism, which prevents Khartoum from accessing much-needed financial
aid from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the
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