Thousands of Sudanese rallied on Thursday in widespread protests of a two-month revolt against President Omar al-Bashir, as emergency courts tried hundreds and Bashir delegated his powers as head of the ruling party to its deputy.
Bashir delegated his powers and authority as head of the ruling National Congress Party to its deputy head, Ahmed Mohamed Haroun, on Friday until the party’s next general conference, the party said in a statement.
Haroun, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur, was elected by the National Congress Party as deputy head this week. He was governor of North Kordofan state.
The decision comes after a week of measures aimed at combating an unprecedented wave of protests threatening Bashir’s three-decade rule, including a nationwide state of emergency, sacking governors of Sudan’s 18 states and replacing them with military and security officials.
The protests, initially over high bread prices, took place almost every day since December 19 and developed into the most sustained challenge Bashir has faced.
As well as tear gas, security forces have used live ammunition. At least 33 people have been killed, according to official statistics, including three security personnel.
Protesters believe the toll is significantly higher.
On Thursday, crowds gathered in and around Khartoum in the first protests since Bashir set up special tribunals. They were heeding a call by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, the main protest organiser, to challenge establishment of the courts.
Over 800 people were sent for trial, the Democratic Alliance of Lawyers, part of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, said in a statement. Trials continued late into the night, with verdicts ranging from releases to jail time.
Security forces fired tear gas at about 400 protesters at Omdurman grand market. Protesters chanted an anti-Bashir slogan: “Down, that’s it”.
Police confronted hundreds more with tear gas in the Wad Nubawi neighbourhood of Omdurman, witnesses said.
Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 Islamist-backed military coup, declared a state of emergency last Friday and sacked state governors, replacing them with military and security officials.
On Monday, he issued a raft of edicts banning unlicensed public gatherings and awarding tough new powers to police. The new courts, as well as emergency prosecutors, were established across every Sudanese state on Tuesday.
Security forces can now 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.
‘REGIME OF TYRANNY’
“Tomorrow is the day we deliver our voice clearly to the regime of corruption and tyranny, the will of the people will not break,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said on the eve of Thursday’s rallies.
About 250 people protested on Sahafa Zalat Street, one of the capital’s main arteries. Police fired tear gas after demonstrators tried to block side streets using stones and burning tyres to prevent security forces chasing them.
Protesters chanted “Revolution is the people’s choice” and other slogans with some carrying Sudanese flags. Women ululated as passing cars hooted in support.
Police fired tear gas at protesters on Sitteen Street and in Khartoum’s low-income area Al-Daim and the Shambat neighbourhood of Khartoum North, witnesses said.
Bashir blames the protests on foreign “agents” and challenges rivals to seek power through elections.
When the state of emergency was declared, Bashir called on parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would let him seek another term in a 2020 vote.