Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on International Women’s Day ordered the release of all women arrested in connection with anti-government demonstrations, hours after protesters marched in the two largest cities.
Sudan has seen near-daily protests against Bashir since December 19. The demonstrations were triggered by price increases and cash shortages but developed into the most sustained challenge to Bashir since he took power in a military coup three decades ago.
During a meeting on Friday, Bashir told the head of the security and intelligence service to release all women detained in connection with the protests, according to a presidency statement. Anti-government activists estimate more than 150 women are in prison for participating in protests.
Earlier, hundreds of protesters chanted anti-government slogans after leaving Friday prayers at a major mosque linked to the opposition Umma party in the city of Omdurman drawing tear gas volleys from police, eyewitnesses said.
Crowds gathered in several areas of Khartoum after prayers, witnesses said. In the Burri neighbourhood, dozens chanted “the revolution is the choice of the people” and “fall, that’s it”, to send the message their only demand is Bashir’s departure. Police later fired tear gas and chased protesters through side streets to disperse them.
Last month Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolved the central government, replaced state governors with security officials, expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings.
That did not stop protesters, with hundreds demonstrating lasr Thursday under a women’s day theme.
Since the emergency measures came into effect last month, courts have tried protesters in evening sessions, sparking further rallies.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court in connection with charges of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, which he denies. He has been lobbying for Sudan to be removed from a list of countries Washington considers state sponsors of terrorism.
The listing blocked investment and financial aid Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, economists say.
Sudan has expanded its money supply to finance its budget deficit, causing spiralling inflation and a steep decline in the value of its currency.