Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has blamed what he calls external conspirators for ongoing anti-government protests in the country.
Sudanese have been protesting since last year over rising bread prices and excruciating economic conditions.
Al-Bashir spoke on Tuesday at a military base near the town of Atbara, where the first protest was staged. He criticized conspirators and some political groups for pushing a regime change in Sudan.
State media SUNA quotes Bashir telling soldiers that “Those who conspired against us and planted traitors amongst us are those who carried out arson attacks and caused damage.”
Cause of Protests
The protests were triggered after bread prices increased from one Sudanese pound ($0.02) to three Sudanese pounds ($0.063).
Bread prices in Sudan are said to be astronomically higher as a result of the country’s economic challenges.
The prices of bread have more than tripled since the start of 2018. It was caused by the government decision to stop importing wheat from overseas.
The protesters continue to demand the exit of President Bashir who seized power in a 1989 military coup, overthrowing an elected government.
He is still wanted by the International Criminal Court for committing crimes against humanity and genocide in the western Darfur region.
Biggest threat Bashir’s rule?
The ongoing protests have resulted in over 22 deaths. Analysts say this is biggest threat to the veteran leader’s three decades rule.
Al-Bashir came to power in 1989 when he led a group of officers in a military coup that ousted a democratically elected government.
Since then, he has been elected three times as President in elections that have been under scrutiny for corruption.
In his address to the military officers, Al-Bashir rejected calls for him to step down, slamming the opposition parties for wishing his downfall.
Addressing claims that the army would soon take over power, he said, “I have no problem with that, because the army always guards the security of our homeland.”
Protesters held what they say was a “martyrs’ rally” in the eastern agricultural town of Al-Gadaref as Al-Bashir spoke.
The rally was in honour of the six people who died in the protests sparked by the rising bread prices.
The main market was shut as demonstrators gathered in the downtown area, chanting slogans such as “Peace, justice, freedom” and “Revolution is the choice of the people”, AFP reported.
Riot police reportedly fired tear gas as the protesters prepared to march to the provincial council building.
The protest was organised by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association. It is a group of teachers, doctors and engineers spearheading protests across the country.
More than 800 protesters have been arrested across Sudan since the unrest began, officials say.