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Protests erupt in Sudan after subsidy cuts

Vehicles queue-up for fuel at a petrol station in al-Amarat district of Khartoum on Thursday. — AFP
Vehicles queue-up for fuel at a petrol station in al-Amarat district of Khartoum on Thursday. — AFP

Khartoum: Sudanese blocked streets in Khartoum with burning tyres Thursday to protest a government's decision scrapping subsidies on petrol and diesel that more than doubled prices.

Sudan's economy has sunk further into a deep crisis since the overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al Bashir in April 2019, sparking frequent demonstrations and risking social unrest in a country in transition.

The lifting of subsidies, which took effect Tuesday, saw the price of petrol shoot up from 150 Sudanese pounds ($0.34 cents) to 290 pounds per litre, while diesel went up from 125 to 285 pounds.

It is the latest in reforms by Sudan's transitional government which vowed to fix the economy, which had been crippled by US sanctions under Bashir.

Late Wednesday, an influential trade union group that had spearheaded mass protests leading to Bashir's ouster, urged the Sudanese to demonstrate against the "unjust" decision.

"We call on protesters to take to the streets now and daily until these unjust decisions are overturned," the Sudanese professionals association said in a Facebook statement.

Responding to that call, small groups of protesters were seen blocking streets in several Khartoum neighbourhoods on Thursday with burning tyres.

Sudanese motorists queueing at petrol stations to fill up, were also angry.

"This government should hand in its resignation. It is unable to manage the country," said one of them, Sofian Ibrahim.

Another motorist, Haroun Mohamed, said: "We are living a very bitter reality. The prices of everything on the market will now shoot up."

Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim said scrapping subsidies on petrol and diesel was part of policies aimed at "serving the interests of the Sudanese people and the Sudanese economy".

"Even if people bring down this government, the next one will also have no option but to go on this track to fix the economy," he told reporters late Wednesday.

Sudan's transitional government has struggled to rebuild the economy and end the country's international isolation since the ouster of Bashir, and hopes that reforms will make it eligible for an IMF debt relief initiative that would help settle a staggering $60 billion foreign debt.

Since April, inflation has soared over 360 percent, according to official data. — AFP

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