Looking for friends, Sudan’s Bashir reopens Eritrea border

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, apparently searching for regional friends amid weeks of protests against his 30-year rule, announced on Thursday he was reopening the border with neighboring Eritrea, shut for a year.

FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir addresses the nation on the eve of the 63rd Independence Day anniversary at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan December 31, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

Sudanese security forces used tear gas to disperse protests in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere on Thursday. Dozens of people have been killed in more than six weeks of protests, which began as demonstrations against rising prices and have swelled into the most sustained street opposition Bashir has faced in power.

Addressing a crowd of supporters during a visit to the Kassala provincial capital near the border with Eritrea, Bashir said he was reaching out to Eritreans he called “brothers”.

“I announce here, from Kassala, that we are opening the border with Eritrea because they are our brothers and our people. Politics will not divide us,” he added.

Sudan closed the border in early January, 2018, after Bashir announced a six-month state of emergency in the regions of Kassala and North Kurdufan to help combat the trafficking of weapons and food.

Bashir has visited Qatar and Egypt since the protests began, while the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have expressed support for the veteran leader.

As Bashir spoke, fresh demonstrations erupted in various parts of Khartoum and Omdurman, the half of the capital on the opposite bank of the Nile, as well as in villages and towns in Jazeera State to the south. Protesters heeded calls issued on Wednesday by a civic group that had organized previous demonstrations.

Witnesses said security forces used tear gas against hundreds of protesters shouting slogans against Bashir’s administration in Abbasiya neighborhood in Omdurman.

Police also dispersed dozens of demonstrators in Shambat and Burri neighborhoods in Khartoum. Witnesses saw police chasing demonstrators into side street.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries or arrests.

In Wad Madani, the provincial capital of Jazeera state, hundreds chanted: “Down and that’s it” and “peaceful, peaceful against the thieves”.

Witnesses said police initially refrained from coming in contact with the demonstrators in Wad Madani, but subsequently resorted to tear gas to disperse them.

Defying demands to step down, Bashir told supporters in Kassala: “Changing the government and changing the president will not be through WhatsApp nor Facebook, but will be through the ballot box.”

“This is our pledge and commitment before the Sudanese people…The decision is your right, the masses of the Sudanese people.”

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Yousef Saba and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Peter Graff and Gareth Jones

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