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Sudanese in suits and ties rally against Bashir’s economic blunders

Doctors, lawyers, civil aviation and transport staff protest

By AFP - May 31,2019 - Last updated at May 31,2019

A member of Sudan's alliance of opposition and protest groups chants slogans outside Sudan's Central Bank during the second day of a strike, as tensions mounted with the country's military rulers over the transition to democracy in Khartoum, Sudan, on Wednesday (Reuters photo)

KHARTOUM — In unprecedented scenes in Khartoum, hundreds of workers in suits and ties alongside their neatly dressed women colleagues have gone on strike to protest what they call Sudan's "total economic collapse".

The popular protests that have rocked the northeast African country for more than five months broke out over a decision to triple the price of bread before quickly turning political against the regime of Omar Al Bashir.

They led to the army toppling the president on April 11 after 30 years in power.

This week saw doctors, lawyers as well as civil aviation and public transport workers respond to the call for a strike from the leaders of the protest movement still pressing for the military to hand over power to civilians.

For two days, these white-collar workers were on the front line of the protests, and they were among the loudest to be heard on the streets of the Sudanese capital.

In Al Mogran, the business district in the western part of the city, workers from various companies gathered on Wednesday outside the central bank following allegations that the army had "attacked" its employees.

The ruling military council is still led by men close to the deposed president, whose economic record has been criticised by the demonstrators.

 

 ‘Total economic collapse’ 

 

"It's a total economic collapse," said Youssef Abdelrahim, an official at the ministry of finance and economic planning. "The state was no longer able to provide liquidity and fuel. This was the first reason for the revolt.”

"This crisis has exposed the regime's inability in the economic field and its policy of tinkering," he told AFP.

"Citizens have completely lost confidence in the state," Abdelrahim said, as protesters behind him chanted and motorists honked their horns in support as they drove by.

Abdelrazek Amanallah, a banker, was also strongly critical.

"There is no more money in the banks. Everything went into the pockets of the 'kizan'," he said.

 

 ‘Where did it go?’ 

 

In 2011, after years of civil war, the secession of the south of the country deprived Sudan of three quarters of its oil wealth and most of its income from gold.

Since then, the country has suffered from a lack of foreign exchange and liquidity that has caused its currency to slide.

A hoped-for economic recovery after the lifting of US sanctions in 2017 never materialised.

Following Bashir's overthrow, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) in financial support for Sudan.

That included a $500 million injection in the central bank aimed at shoring up the feeble pound.

"Under the old regime, oil revenues did not benefit the economy," said Ali Ibrahim, a 49-year-old geologist who works for an oil consortium.

"Where did it go? That's the big question. It must be asked of those in charge, the government," he said, beads of sweat rolling down his forehead as he clutched a banner together with workmates.

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