Sudan protesters demand freedom, peace, justice

Riot police fire tear gas on anti-government rallies in Khartoum, its twin city of Omdurman.


Deadly protests have rocked the east African country since December


The protests quickly escalated into anti-government demonstrations across Sudan

KHARTOUM - Crowds of Sudanese protesters chanted "freedom, freedom," as riot police fired tear gas on anti-government rallies in the capital and its twin city of Omdurman on Monday, witnesses said.

They said protesters took to the streets in two districts of Khartoum and in Omdurman, across the Nile.

Riot police swiftly moved in to disperse the protests, firing tear gas at one of the rallies in Khartoum and in the twin city, according to witnesses.

Even as police fired tear gas, protesters kept up the "freedom, peace, justice" rallying cry of an anti-government campaign that erupted in December, witnesses said.

Monday's demonstrations came after campaigners called for new rallies this week against the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

Deadly protests have rocked the east African country since December after cash-strapped Khartoum cut a vital subsidy on bread.

The protests quickly escalated into anti-government demonstrations across cities and towns, with protesters calling on Bashir to step down.

Officials say 30 people have died in nationwide protests, but Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed.

Bashir has remained defiant, addressing loyalists at several rallies across the country and seeking support from regional allies.

On Sunday, he held three rallies in the state of North Kordofan where he pledged to bolster rural growth by undertaking new infrastructure projects.

Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials have repeatedly said the government can only be changed through elections.

The veteran leader, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, is considering running for a third presidential term in polls due next year.

The protest campaign led by the Sudanese Professionals Association is seen as the biggest challenge yet to Bashir's three-decade-rule, with young men and women demanding his resignation in daily demonstrations.

At one of his rallies in North Kordofan on Sunday, Bashir appealed to the country's youths to help build a new Sudan.

On Monday, Defence Minister Awad Ibnouf called for the inclusion of youths in dialogue.

"The recent incidents show that there is a division between the young generation and others within families," Ibnouf told a gathering of army officers in Khartoum, according to a statement issued by the army.

"This is something that needs to be solved by dialogue with the youth."

His comments come days after the army's chief of staff, General Kamal Abdelmarouf, said the army "will not allow the Sudanese state to collapse or fall into chaos" amid the ongoing protests.

But late on Monday, Abdelmarouf appeared to soften his tone, saying Sudan's armed forces were committed to protecting the constitution.

Speaking at the same meeting along with the defence minister, Abdelmarouf said the armed forces "believe in a peaceful exchange of power".

"The role of Sudanese armed forces... is to allow Sudanese people from all political movements to carry out their activities in a secure and stable country," Abdelmarouf said.