October 1, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - In his first appearance since the outbreak of the recent protests, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, accused unnamed parties seeking to destabilize Sudan of exploiting the events for killings, looting and vandalism.
- Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)
Last week, violent clashes erupted between the demonstrators and security forces in different parts of the Sudan following the government’s decision to remove fuel subsidies leading to at least 33 deaths according to official figures and more than a 150 according to activists and opposition.
Sudanese authorities said they arrested 700 in connection with the riots and denied using live ammunition against protesters. They accused outside elements of firing at the demonstrators.
The demonstrations saw the participation of thousands of Sudanese who chanted slogans against the government of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir like "The people want the fall of the regime!" and “Freedom! Freedom!”.
Bashir, who was addressing a graduation ceremony in the military academy on Tuesday, vehemently denied holding his government accountable for the killing of protestors and prayed for mercy for the victims, calling them “martyrs”.
But a even some in the government believe that the is responsible for the killings.
Over the weekend, more than 30 ruling National Congress Party (NCP) officials and supporters sent a memo to president Bashir urging him to reinstate the fuel subsidies and chiding him over the killing of protestors among other demands.
A senior official in Sudan’s NCP on Monday criticized the violent crackdown.
"The fact that so many have died points to the degree of violence," the official told Agence France Presse (AFP) on condition of anonymity.
"I believe it was unnecessary to repress the peaceful demonstrators. Peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right," the official said.
The Sudanese president said that despite his government’s huge efforts to explain the reasons behind the new economic measures, those who seek to cause harm exploited the freedom of peaceful expression to kill people and destroy properties.
Bashir added that secession of South Sudan had a negative impact on the situation in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, pointing to the agreements reached with Juba to stop support for the rebel groups in both states.
He stressed Khartoum’s keenness to sustain peace with Juba pointing to the shared history between the two countries.
Sudan and South Sudan were on the brink of a major and fresh setback in relations when Bashir ordered his government last June to shut down oil pipelines carrying the economic lifeline from landlocked South Sudan.
Bashir was aggravated over what he claimed was continued support by Juba to the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which in April has extended its military reach to North Kordofan’s second largest town of Um Rawaba which took the government and observers at the time by surprise.
South Sudan rejects accusations of rebel support leveled by its northern neighbor and in turn alleges that Khartoum is aiding David Yau Yau’s rebellion in Jonglei state.
The Sudanese government has insisted that normal relations with South Sudan and implementation of cooperation agreements signed last year can only be attained after concluding security arrangements which in its core requires the establishment of a buffer zone and ceasing support to insurgents.
A joint commission comprised of African Union (AU) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is tasked with probing rebel support claims by the two countries.