Sudan Protesters Rally in Support of War Victims


Hundreds of Sudanese rallied on Thursday, including at a camp for people displaced by war, witnesses said, after campaigners called for anti-government demonstrators to show support for millions affected by conflicts.

Deadly protests that erupted in Sudan on December 19 over a decision to triple the price of bread have spread across the country and escalated into calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down after 30 years of iron-fisted rule.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters chanting "freedom, peace, justice," the rallying cry of the campaign, demonstrated in central Khartoum but were quickly confronted by riot police with tear gas, witnesses said.

"Police have arrested many young men and women downtown," a witness said without revealing his name for security reasons.

Police later broke up the rally, but demonstrators took to the streets in the northern district of Bahari, witnesses said, adding that they too were confronted with tear gas.

Crowds of people living in a camp for the displaced in conflict-wracked Darfur in western Sudan staged a rally inside the camp, residents said.

"The residents of camp Zam Zam, mostly young men and women, are chanting anti-government slogans in the center of the camp," resident Mohamed Issa told AFP by telephone.

"We believe that people across the country are demonstrating on behalf of us, the victims of war in Darfur."

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) that is spearheading the protest movement had called for protests on Thursday in support of people affected by conflicts in the three regions of Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

Over the years, tens of thousands of people have been killed in these conflicts and millions more displaced, with hundreds of thousands still living in sprawling camps, especially in Darfur.

The war in Darfur erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, accusing it of marginalizing the region.

"Those who are demonstrating across the country are saying that we are one nation," said Hassan Adam, a resident of Zam Zam camp.

"We want to build a new Sudan that does not differentiate between a Zurga (black African) and an Arab."

Protests first erupted on December 19 in the farming town of Atbara after a hike in bread prices, but soon spread to cities and towns across the east African country.

Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed.

President Bashir has remained defiant in the face of protests, promising to promote development and peace across the country, including in conflict-hit states.