Sudanese workers protest over 'economic collapse'
KHARTOUM - In unprecedented scenes in Khartoum, hundreds of workers in suits and ties alongside their neatly dressed women colleagues have gone on strike to protest what they call Sudan's "total economic collapse".
The popular protests that have rocked the northeast African country for more than five months broke out over a decision to triple the price of bread before quickly turning political against the regime of Omar al-Bashir.
They led to the army toppling the autocratic president on April 11 after 30 years in power.
This week saw doctors, lawyers as well as civil aviation and public transport workers respond to the call for a strike from the leaders of the protest movement still pressing for the military to hand over power to civilians.
For two days, these white-collar workers were on the front line of the protests, and they were among the loudest to be heard on the streets of the Sudanese capital.
In Al-Mogran, the business district in the western part of the city, workers from various companies gathered on Wednesday outside the central bank following allegations that the army had "attacked" its employees.
The ruling military council is still led by men close to the deposed president, whose economic record has been criticised by the demonstrators.
'Total economic collapse'
"It's a total economic collapse," said Youssef Abdelrahim, an official at the ministry of finance and economic planning. "The state was no longer able to provide liquidity and fuel. This was the first reason" for the revolt.
"This crisis has exposed the regime's inability in the economic field and its policy of tinkering," he said.
"Citizens have completely lost confidence in the state," Abdelrahim said, as protesters behind him chanted and motorists honked their horns in support as they drove by.
Abdelrazek Amanallah, a banker, was also strongly critical.
"They destroyed the country through corruption, they stole its wealth: oil, gas, gold, everything," said the 27-year-old who was wearing a neat tie and white shirt despite the stifling heat.
"There is no more money in the banks. Everything went into the pockets of the 'kizan'," he said, referring to Islamists accused of seizing the country's wealth in the aftermath of the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power.
'Where did it go?'
In 2011, after years of civil war, the secession of the south of the country deprived Sudan of three quarters of its oil wealth and most of its income from gold.
Since then, the country has suffered from a lack of foreign exchange and liquidity that has caused its currency to slide.
A hoped-for economic recovery after the lifting of US sanctions in 2017 never materialised.
Following Bashir's overthrow, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged three billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) in financial support for Sudan.
That included a $500 million injection in the central bank aimed at shoring up the feeble pound.
"Under the old regime, oil revenues did not benefit the economy," said Ali Ibrahim, a 49-year-old geologist who works for an oil consortium.
"Where did it go? That's the big question. It must be asked of those in charge, the government," he said, beads of sweat rolling down his forehead as he clutched a banner together with workmates.
Salwa Mohamed, 56, denounced the military for wasting money on "tribal wars".
"The money has gone into conflicts in the south or in Darfur. It has never been used to develop the country, hospitals, education," said the civil servant at the ministry of finance and economic planning.
"For 30 years our economy has suffered. We have never really made any progress. Bashir was a soldier and those who lead us are still soldiers," she said, adjusting her sunglasses.
"We want competent civilians to take over this country."