Sudan police disperse anti-austerity protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2012 3:04 PM
Sudan police disperse anti-austerity protests
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police used batons and fired tear gas to break up protesters blocking roads in central Khartoum and in a northern suburb in the latest demonstrations against tough austerity measures on Thursday, witnesses said.Student groups, inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, have led rallies in the Sudanese capital against government spending cuts and sought to galvanize anger over price rises into a wider movement to topple President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in power since a 1989 bloodless coup.The Arab-African nation has faced soaring food prices and a weakening currency since South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it about three-quarters of the country's economically vital oil output.On the fifth day of protests on Thursday, about 150 students from a financial college halted traffic in the city centre and threw rocks at police while chanting "No, no to high prices" and "The people want to overthrow the regime," witnesses said.Security forces broke up the protests with batons, they added. The police were not immediately available for comment.In a separate incident in the northern suburb of Bahri, women and girls brought out chairs and sat in a main street, blocking traffic and holding placards reading "No, no to high prices" and chanting the same slogan, witnesses said.Police tried to negotiate with the protesters to leave, and then fired tear gas to disperse them when they refused.The security forces, wielding batons, then scuffled with young men from the neighborhood who threw rocks, the witnesses said.Late on Wednesday, police used batons to disperse members of the opposition Umma party as they left their headquarters.Sudan's main opposition parties have called for protests against the austerity measures but have not managed to bring large numbers of people on to the streets.The International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Sudan two weeks ago to launch emergency measures to overcome what it called "daunting" challenges.The finance minister set out the austerity plans in detail on Wednesday. They include raising some taxes and shrinking the government as well as sensitive cuts in fuel subsidies.(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Diana Abdallah)