Sudan president reportedly stepping down

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down following months of unrest. (Reuters picture)

KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir plans to step down, Arabiya reported on Thursday, following months of anti-government protests.

The report cited unidentified sources and contained few other details. State radio said Thursday the Sudan national army is preparing to make an important announcement as military officers surrounded the presidential palace in Khartoum, the capital.

Bashir would be the second leader in the region to quit amid nationwide protests this month, following Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation.

Calls for Bashir to resign reached fever pitch in recent days, as security forces fired tear gas at thousands of protesters gathered outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Demonstrators staged a sit-in outside the president’s residence, urging the army to back their movement.

The demonstration was called by the Sudanese Professionals Association to mark the anniversary of the 1985 rebellion that overthrew President Gafaar Nimeiry. The outlawed group includes doctors, engineers and academics, and has played an instrumental role in sustaining the uprising.

The army’s latest movements come as Bashir’s embattled ruling National Congress Party planned a rival rally to defend the 75-year-old, urging people to attend a so-called “million-man” march on Thursday.

Africa’s third-largest nation has seen uprisings and demonstrations during Bashir’s three decades of rule. But the latest movement, which started in December with an outcry over rising living costs, had posed the biggest threat to his reign since he seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup. His government has acknowledged some economic grievances, but insisted elections in 2020 remain the only path to change.

People have protested across Sudan, pleading for international financial assistance as security forces battled to contain them. Rights groups have said more than 45 people were killed and 2,600 arrested.

In March, the SPA made another bid to weaken Bashir, organising a day-long strike that saw professionals including teachers and doctors stay home from work.