Sudan’s president al-Bashir is not stepping down just yet

Still here.
Still here.
Image: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
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Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir has declared a yearlong state of emergency months after anti-government protests began calling for an end to his three-decade rule.

In a speech delivered on Friday night (Feb. 22) in Khartoum, Bashir also dissolved both central and state governments and delayed constitutional amendments that would have allowed him to run for another term of presidency in 2020. Unless the constitution was changed, Bashir, who came to power in a putsch in 1989, would not be permitted to stand again.

Ahead of Bashir’s speech, the head of national security and intelligence Salah Gosh told journalists Bashir would step down as the head of the ruling National Congress Party and not run in the 2020 polls—something president Bashir himself didn’t confirm in his own speech. Bashir did, however, say that he would remain the country’s head of state.

The 75-year-old leader also struck a conciliatory note saying the demands and aspiration of his people for better living conditions were legitimate. He also cautioned against “zero-sum politics” saying Sudan should avoid going the direction of neighboring states—possibly hinting at the conflagration of Libya after the ouster and killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi following the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

Bashir also said he had sent “an honest message” to opposition members to participate in constructive dialogue, and said mechanisms will be introduced to engage and empower the youth who are disconnected from the political process. He also said he will listen to the concerns and demand of the young people on the streets who “represent the future of Sudan.”

The speech comes two months after protests began on Dec. 19 in the eastern city of Atbara over the phasing out of wheat and fuel subsidies. But before long, the demonstrations went national and turned against Bashir himself, leading security officials to quell the uprising, disrupt the internet, and arrest opposition figures and journalists. More than 40 people have also been killed in the protests, according to Amnesty International.

Throughout the deadly violence that has engulfed the whole nation, Bashir has remained steadfast even mocking those agitating for change using social media. “Changing the government or presidents cannot be done through WhatsApp or Facebook,” he said in late January. “It can be done only through elections. It’s only the people who decide who will be the president.”

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