Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds demonstrating in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman Tuesday against the death of a fellow anti-government protester, witnesses said.
The demonstration, which came ahead of planned nighttime rallies in Omdurman and Khartoum just across the Nile, was the latest in more than a month of escalating protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
The veteran leader, who has made defiant appearances at loyalist rallies in Khartoum and other cities, left for Qatar on Tuesday to discuss “bilateral relations” with his longstanding Gulf Arab ally.
Bashir is also expected to discuss “efforts to achieve peace in Darfur,” the official SUNA news agency reported, referring to the western region of Sudan that has been ravaged by a conflict between Sudanese forces and ethnic minority rebels.
Chanting “overthrow, overthrow” and “freedom, peace and justice,” the catchword slogans of the protest movement, the demonstrators had gathered near the home of their dead comrade.
The doctors’ branch of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) said he had died on Monday from wounds sustained when demonstrators clashed with security forces in Khartoum on Thursday.
The SPA has taken the lead in organising the protests after hundreds of opposition activists were detained, and its doctors’ branch has taken casualties.
Human rights groups say that several medics have been among more than 40 people killed in clashes with the security forces since the protests erupted on December 19.
The authorities say 26 people have been killed, including at least one doctor, but blame rebel provocateurs they say have infiltrated the protesters’ ranks.
The mushrooming protests are widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s iron-fisted rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
Triggered by the government’s tripling of the price of bread, which brought demonstrators onto the streets of the eastern farming hub of Atbara and other provincial towns, the protests rapidly spread to the metropolis and other big cities as people vented their anger against the government.
The breakaway of South Sudan in 2011 deprived the government of most of its oil revenues and a chronic shortage of foreign currency has stoked spiralling inflation and widespread shortages.
Experts say cash injections from the Gulf states, led by Qatar, have helped stave off economic collapse.
Bashir has survived previous protest movements in September 2013 and January last year.
But his efforts to blame the United States for Sudan’s economic woes have fallen on increasingly deaf ears as people have struggled to buy even basic foods and medicines.