CAIRO Hundreds of Sudanese took part in anti-government protests in the capital and other cities on Sunday as the government announced it had secured $300 million in loans to try and address an economic crisis that initially triggered the unrest.
The demonstrations began in December over price hikes and food shortages, and quickly escalated into calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down, posing one of the biggest challenges yet to his nearly 30-year rule. Security forces have responded with a fierce crackdown that has killed dozens of people.
The rallies are being led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions. Footage posted online showed dozens of people marching in Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, chanting: "Freedom, dignity and justice."
Also on Sunday, dozens of families demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Service in Khartoum, calling for the release of detained relatives, according to activists who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.
A leading Sudanese geneticist was among those arrested. Muntasir Ibrahim, who heads the University of Khartoum's Institute of Endemic Diseases, was arrested on Feb. 21 from a mosque in the capital, said his son, Gassim Ibrahim.
Ibrahim said his father and other university professors had drawn up an initiative for a peaceful transition of power. Police previously arrested his father on two occasions in January.
The state-run SUNA news service meanwhile reported that the Finance Ministry secured a $230 million loan from the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund to support the balance of payments.
It said the ministry signed another deal worth $70 million with the Arab Trade Financing Program, which is also based in the Emirati capital.
Al-Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, has responded to the protests by suspending plans for constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek a new term in next year's elections. He has also stepped down as leader of the ruling party, appointing a loyalist in his place.
Critics say he is trying to buy time and remain in power. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for charges of genocide linked to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
Source: Voice of America