KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan accused unnamed “Zionist institutions” on Sunday of fanning anti-government protests as it tries to snuff out disturbances which echo Arab Spring unrest elsewhere.
For two weeks, anti-austerity protesters have been calling for the resignation of the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders.
Sudan lost three-quarters of its oil revenue after South Sudan gained independence last year, forcing the government to impose cuts that have hit Sudanese who were already grappling with soaring inflation and a weakening currency.
“Zionist institutions inside the United States and elsewhere... are exploiting the latest economic decisions to destabilize the security and political situation,” the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre quoted presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie as saying.
Nafie said the government had evidence of collusion between rebel groups in Darfur, politicians in arch-foe South Sudan and Zionist institutions in the United States to sabotage Sudan. He did not present the evidence.
The demonstrations have rarely gathered more than a few hundred people at a time, but have been an added pressure for Bashir’s government, already trying to contain the economic crisis and multiple armed insurgencies.
Police used teargas to put down protests in Khartoum on Friday.
The Sudanese Commission for Defence of Freedoms and Rights estimated on Sunday that 1,000 people had been arrested since the protests began.
Demonstrators have chanted the widespread Arab Spring refrain: “The people want the downfall of the regime”.
Unusually, there was no official ceremony on Saturday to mark the 23rd anniversary of Bashir’s bloodless coup.
Instead, Bashir attended the opening of a shopping mall in central Khartoum. Sudanese media reported the state would donate 20 percent of revenues from the mall to the poor.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, charges Sudan has dismissed as baseless and politically motivated. (Additional reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)