September 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - More than two dozen officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) sent a memo to president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir on Saturday urging him to reverse recent economic measures and put an end to killing of protesters who took to the streets following the lifting of fuel subsidies.
- Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani (Reuters)
On Monday, the Sudanese cabinet formally endorsed a decision that has been circulated the night before by which prices of gasoline and diesel were increased by almost 100%.
A gallon of gasoline now costs 21 Sudanese pounds ($4.77 based on official exchange rate) compared to 12.5 pounds ($2.84).
Diesel also went from 8 pounds ($1.81) a gallon to 14 pounds ($3.18).
Cooking gas cylinders are now are priced at 25 pounds ($5.68) from 15 pounds ($3.40).
Violent clashes erupted between the demonstrators and security forces in different parts of the country leading to at least 31 deaths according to official figures and more than a 100 according to activists and opposition.
Sudanese authorities said they arrested 600 in connection with the riots and denied using live ammunition against protesters. They accused outside elements of firing at the demonstrators.
Today, 31 NCP officials and supporters sent a letter to the Sudanese president including former presidential adviser and ex-head of the NCP parliamentary caucus Ghazi Salah A-Deen Al-Attabani, member of NCP leadership Bureau Hassan Osman Rizk, former member of the 1989 Revolutionary Council and ex-ambassador to Bahrain Salah Karrar, 9 members of the national assembly and other retired members of the military such as Brigadier-general Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Jalil who served on Bashir’s security detail and was detained last year in connection with an alleged coup attempt.
The memo seen by Sudan Tribune, criticized the subsidies decision saying it "harshly" impacted the Sudanese citizens adding that it was not sent to parliament for approval and was even opposed by sections of the NCP.
"Alternatives [to lifting subsidies] were proposed by individuals, experts and political forces but the substitutes were given no consideration and the government insisted on implementing the measures as they are indifferent to their impact and the extent of citizens’ ability to endure them," the letter said.
The signatories also asserted that remarks made by Sudanese official to justify the measures were "irritating" to the people with disregard to their feelings.
They were likely referring to remarks made by Bashir and his finance minister Ali Mahmood Abdel-Rasool this month in which they said that prior to them coming to power in 1989, Sudanese people did not know what "hot dog" or "pizza" were.
The Sudanese president held a two-hour press conference last Sunday which he devoted primarily to defending the move to cut subsidies and reiterated his earlier arguments that most of these subsidies goes into the pockets of the wealthy population at the expense of the poor ones.
He gave an example of a house in his neighborhood which has five cars suggesting that this household is not deserving of the subsidies they get when they pump fuel at the station.
The memo pointed fingers at the government for violently crushing this week’s protests saying that the demonstrators were not allowed to "peacefully express their views in line with the constitution".
"With the lack of opportunities for the peaceful expression, the elements that take advantage of these situations to practice violence prevailed resulting in much destruction and the loss of precious lives between citizens and the police and security forces in clashes which saw the use of live ammunition," the letter read in part.
The signatories noted that the 1989 coup led by Bashir came with the pledge of implementing the Islamic Shar’ia laws which prohibits shedding blood and calls for achieving justice among the subjects of the state and securing basic rights including the freedom of belief and expression.
"But the package of measures introduced by the government and the subsequent suppression of opponents is far from compassion, justice and the realization of the right to believe and peaceful expression," the letter reads.
On Friday, the security service closed the bureaus of UAE-based Al-Arabiya and Sky New Arabic Service television stations, accusing them of false reporting on this week’s events.
Al-Sudani and Al-Meghar Al-Siyasi daily newspapers were banned from publication for most of this week. Several other newspapers suspended publication to protest the censorship on coverage of the protests.
Journalists of the independent newspaper Al-Sahafa also decided today to resign collectively from the daily for the same reason.
The pro-government Al-Intibaha was informed by security services on Saturday that they are suspended indefinitely.
Since the beginning of the protests the security services prevented the local press from publishing reports about the demonstrations except from official sources.
CALL FOR REFORMS
The memo listed a number of reform demands for the country to overcome the current economic and political crisis including
• Immediately suspend the economic measures
• Assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team with elements from the various political forces and give them the task of agreeing on a recipe for urgent treatment of the economic crisis within two weeks
• The formation of a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of political forces to deal with the important political issues including the political framework in which the economic crisis can be resolved
• Cease censorship on newspapers and the media outlets
• Enabling basic freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution, including the freedom to demonstrate peacefully
• Conduct impartial investigations on the firing live ammunition at citizens and to punish those responsible
• Compensate citizens affected by the murder and sabotage
The signatories did not say what their next move will be if the government did not meet their demands.
"This is a package of expedited procedures to address the current acute crisis, and there are other necessary but deferred procedures that we will address as events unfold. We advise you to deal with these demands in a wise manner. It is in your hands to ward off the crisis or escalate it" they wrote.
"The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today" they said in their letter to Bashir.