AFP – Fuel price hikes which sparked deadly protests last week aimed to save Sudan from economic meltdown, President Omar al-Bashir said Tuesday in his first comments on the unrest which has left discontent simmering.
“The latest economic measures aim at preventing the collapse of the economy following the increase in inflation and instability in the exchange rate,” he said, quoted by the official SUNA news agency.
Bashir also spoke of “conspiracies being planted by the saboteurs against our country”.
On 23 September the government cut petrol subsidies, driving up pump prices by more than 60%.
The move came under a series of measures designed to stabilise an economy plagued by inflation and a weakening currency since South Sudan separated in 2011, taking with it most of Sudan’s oil production.
The lost oil accounted for the majority of Khartoum’s export earnings.
Bashir said the economy has suffered “negative impact” from the separation of the South and the disappearance of oil revenue.
But the public struggled to understand why their “brothers and daughters” had been shot dead during protests.
“Peaceful demonstration is a civic right,” Bashir said, while SUNA added that he “asked God to have mercy upon the martyrs”.
“We are very angry about what happened because those protesters, their only weapons were stones and their shouts,” said Yusif Mohammed, 50, a teacher whose brother was killed in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.
“Why were they gunned down?”
Mohammed said he was proud of his brother “because by joining the demonstrations he was defending the right of his people.”
Osama Mohammed, 47, who works in a private company, told AFP: “After the deaths of those youths we will not keep silent.”
People were tired of talk of reform by a regime that has been in power for 24 years, said Osama Mohammed.
He lives in Omdurman, which is home to most of the capital region’s poor.
Sudan falls near the bottom of a United Nations human development index measuring income, health and education.
It also ranked among the lowest of 176 countries in Transparency International’s index of perceived public sector corruption last year.
Authorities say 34 people have died since petrol and diesel prices jumped, sending thousands into the streets in the worst urban unrest during Bashir’s rule.
He took power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.