KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Hundreds of Sudanese took to the streets of central Khartoum on Tuesday to demonstrate against high food prices and to demand better public transport, witnesses said.
Protests are rare in Sudan but anger has been building over an economic crisis and spiralling inflation after the country lost most of its oil reserves to newly-independent South Sudan.
About 300 people protested in the main bus and taxi station in Khartoum to demand better public transport, witnesses said. Students from the university faculties joined the crowd to protest against food inflation.
“The students shouted: ‘No to high prices. Bread, bread for the poor,” a witness said, declining to be identified. Police arrived at the scene but did not interfere, he said.
Hundreds of people also protested at a bus station in the suburb of Omdurman, another witness said. The protesters then marched on a Nile bridge linking Omdurman with Khartoum and started throwing stones at private cars and police vehicles, the witness said.
Police said in a statement that a group of citizens had thrown stones at cars crossing the bridge, adding that it had prevented “acts of sabotage.”
Sudan has a poor public transport system with commuters mostly relying on private taxis and mini-buses which struggle to meet demand and often get accused of overcharging.
Many Sudanese have been hit hard by inflation which reached 20.7 percent in September due to high food prices, while the Sudanese pound has dived on the black market in past weeks.
The government has reacted with a package of measures, including temporarily waiving duties on basic food imports.
But economists doubt inflation will ease much as Sudan lost most of its oil reserves when South Sudan became independent, reducing the inflow of foreign currency needed to pay for imports, leading to scarcities.
The economy is dependent on oil and small-scale gold exports. The government wants to diversify the economy but progress has been slow, which experts blame on U.S. trade sanctions and poor planning.