Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, apparently searching for regional friends amid weeks of protests against his 30-year rule, announced on Thursday he was reopening the border with neighbouring Eritrea, shut for a year.
Dozens of people have been killed in more than six weeks of protests, which began over rising prices and have swelled into the most sustained street opposition Bashir has faced in power.
Addressing a crowd of supporters during a visit to the Kassala provincial capital near the border with Eritrea, Bashir said he was reaching out to Eritreans he called “brothers”.
“I announce here, from Kassala, that we are opening the border with Eritrea because they are our brothers and our people. Politics will not divide us,” he added.
Bashir has visited Qatar and Egypt since the protests began, while the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have expressed support for the veteran leader.
As Bashir spoke, fresh demonstrations erupted in various parts of Khartoum and Omdurman, the half of the capital on the opposite bank of the Nile, as well as in towns in Jazeera State to the south amid high security.
Protesters heeded calls issued on Wednesday by a civic group that had organised previous demonstrations.
Witnesses said security forces used tear gas against hundreds of protesters shouting slogans against Bashir’s administration in Abbasiya neighbourhood in Omdurman.
Police also dispersed dozens of demonstrators in Shambat and Burri neighbourhoods in Khartoum.
Witnesses saw police chasing demonstrators into side street.
In Wad Madani, the provincial capital of Jazeera state, hundreds chanted: “Down and that’s it” and “peaceful, peaceful against the thieves”.
Witnesses said police initially refrained from coming into contact with the demonstrators in Wad Madani, but subsequently resorted to tear gas to disperse them.
Police spokesman General Hashem Ali said that protests were recorded in parts of Khartoum and other states.
Defying demands to step down, Bashir told supporters in Kassala: “Changing the government and changing the president will not be through WhatsApp nor Facebook, but will be through the ballot box.”
“This is our pledge and commitment before the Sudanese people … The decision is your right, the masses of the Sudanese people.”