Sudan protesters urge Darfur demos as new rallies planned

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A group organizing anti-government protests across Sudan vowed to stage new demonstrations on Sunday, including for the first time in the war-torn region of Darfur.

Protests that erupted in the provinces on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread have escalated into nationwide anti-government rallies, with demonstrators calling for President Omar al-Bashir to resign.

Authorities say at least 24 people have died in the protests, while rights group Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 40, including children and medical staff.

On Sunday, protest organizers called for demonstrations in the capital Khartoum and other towns including Madani, Kosti and Dongola as part of what they have called a “Week of Uprising”.

They also urged protests in Niyala and El-Fasher in Darfur, the first such rallies to be called in the region.

“The people of Niyala and El-Fasher, we call on you to gather in downtown like other towns and villages who are calling on President Bashir to step down,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said in a joint statement with an alliance of opposition groups.

Darfur, a region the size of France, has been torn by violence since 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Khartoum, accusing it of economic and political marginalization.

Darfur has remained largely calm since last year, with no anti-government demonstration held so far even as protesters staged hundreds of rallies in other cities that have been swiftly broken up by riot police.

Anti-government demonstrations first erupted in towns and villages before spreading to Khartoum last month.

Although the trigger was the rise in the price of bread, Sudan has faced a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported in several cities, including Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.

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