KHARTOUM: Doctors in Sudan went on strike on Monday, feeding into deadly protests against bread prices that represent one of the biggest challenges President Omar Al-Bashir has faced in nearly three decades in power.
A gathering of professionals from various sectors had issued a call on Sunday to strike as fresh protests hit cities — including Omdurman, close to the capital Khartoum — late into the evening.
The strike “started at 08:00 am (0600 GMT) in the morning” and hospital workers were the first to take part, said Mohammed Al-Assam, a member of a committee of doctors.
The committee said in a statement that it would submit an official demand on Tuesday for the “president’s immediate resignation in response to the uprising by the Sudanese people… (and the) formation of a transitional government.”
The protest movement has hit around a dozen cities since Wednesday, after the government tripled the price of bread, in a country beset by economic crisis.
Eight people have died in demonstrations in the eastern cities of Al-Gadaref and Atbara during clashes with security forces, according to officials and witnesses.
But others have spoken of higher death tolls.
Opposition leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi said on Saturday that 22 people had died, denouncing what he called “armed repression” against a legitimate protest movement.
Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister, was overthrown in a coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989.
Pushed into exile several times, Mahdi returned to his homeland on Wednesday, the day protests began.
After initially railing against the high cost of living, some protesters have also adopted the slogan used in the 2011 Arab Spring — “the people want the fall of the regime.” Mahdi has likewise called for the government to go.
“The main reason for the protests is economic and linked to high prices but the roots of the economic crisis are political,” according to Abdellattif Al-Bouni, a political science professor.
“The political failures of the government, errors and bad management” explain why people are so angry, he said.
In January, protests erupted against the high price of basic foodstuffs, but were quickly quelled by the authorities, which arrested opposition leaders and militants.
Several opposition party members — accused of vandalism during the ongoing protests — have been arrested, the official Suna news agency said on Sunday.