Sudan's Bashir Calls on Parliament to Delay Amendments Allowing Him Another Term

Facing unprecedented protests, leader declares state of emergency for one year and announces dissolution of central, state governments

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech to the nation at the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, February 22, 2019.
Ashraf Shazly/AFP

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Friday called on parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term in a presidential election in 2020. 

Facing the biggest popular protests since he came to power 30 years ago, Bashir also declared a state of emergency for one year and said he would dissolve the central government and state governments. 

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Two weeks before protests broke out, a majority of lawmakers backed proposed amendments to the constitution allow Bashir to run for another term. But on Saturday, the parliamentary committee tasked with amending the constitution said it would indefinitely postpone a meeting to draft these changes. 

Bashir, an Islamist and former army officer, came to power in 1989 after a military coup. He won elections in 2010 and 2015 after changes in the constitution following a peace agreement with southern rebels, who then seceded to form South Sudan. 

Ahead of Bashir's speech, security forces fired teargas to disperse hundreds of protesters who marched and chanted anti-government slogans following Friday prayers at a major mosque near the Sudanese capital, eyewitnesses said. 

The demonstration in the city of Omdurman outside Al-Sayed Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi mosque, which has ties to the opposition Umma party, was the latest in what have become near-daily protests in Sudan since December 19. 

Protesters chanted "the revolution is the choice of the people" and "fall, that's it", to express that their only demand is the end of Bashir's rule. 

The demonstrations were triggered by price increases and cash shortages but have developed into the most sustained challenge to Bashir since he took power three decades ago. 

Activists say nearly 60 people have been killed during two months of protests, while authorities put the death toll at 32, including three security personnel. 

Security forces have used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters, and have arrested people including opposition party members, activists and journalists. 

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, which he denies. He has been lobbying for Sudan to be removed from a list of countries Washington deems state sponsors of terrorism. 

The listing has blocked the investment and financial aid that Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, economists say. 

Sudan has been rapidly expanding its money supply in an attempt to finance its budget deficit, causing spiraling inflation and a steep decline in the value of its currency.