February 4, 2019 / 6:37 PM / 5 months ago

Sudan minister appeals to young as protests near seventh week

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s defence minister said on Monday that young people caught up in recent turmoil had “reasonable ambition”, the second apparently conciliatory gesture in three days from a senior government figure.

Students, activists and other protesters frustrated with economic hardships have held almost daily demonstrations across Sudan since Dec. 19, mounting the most sustained challenge to President Omar al-Bashir’s three decades in power.

Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf did not directly address the protesters’ concerns, but said the situation in the country showed a schism between young and old.

That, he added, “requires intergenerational communication and fair solutions to youth problems and realising their reasonable ambition”.

Recent events “showed the need to reshape political entities, parties and armed movements of the political scene with a different mindset than before,” he said during a briefing with military officers, according to a ministry statement.

The minister did not spell out what kind of reshaping should take place and there was no immediate response from opposition parties which have backed the demonstrations.

Police dispersed dozens of protesters in the Shambat neighbourhood of Khartoum on Monday and dozens more across the Nile in Omdurman, the capital’s twin city, witnesses said.

People have taken to the streets across Sudan, frustrated with price hikes and shortages in cash, bread, petrol and other essentials, calling for Bashir to go. Many have echoed slogans used in the Muslim world’s “Arab Spring” uprisings.

Rights groups say at least 45 people have been killed during clashes with security services, while the government puts the death toll at 30, including two security personnel.

Bashir has shown no sign of being prepared to concede any power and has blamed the protests on foreign agents, challenging his rivals to seek power through the ballot box.

But Prime Minister Moataz Moussa on Saturday appeared to soften the official stance on the protests, describing demonstrators’ calls for better living conditions as “legitimate”.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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