Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has said protesters in the country are trying to imitate the 2011 Arab Spring and blamed unidentified outside groups for trying to destablise the region.
During a visit to Cairo on Sunday, where he met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Bashir said the the unrest in Sudan was “an attempt to copy the so-called Arab Spring for Sudan.”
It is Bashir’s second overseas visit since last month, when protests triggered by a hike in bread prices erupted in the country. The demonstrations have also called for Bashir, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, to step down as the country’s leader.
Sisi said he was eager to maintain the close historical ties between the two countries, while Bashir said the protests against him were not as bad as they seemed, accusing outside groups of trying to undermine his rule in what he compared with Egypt’s own experience during its 2011 uprising.
“There are many negative organizations working on shaking the stability and security of the region,” Bashir said at a joint press conference after the meeting.
How bread has emerged as the main symbol of Sudan unrest
“We acknowledge that there is a problem, we are not claiming there is nothing but it is not as big as described by some media platforms. It’s an attempt to copy the so-called Arab Spring for Sudan.”
Citing what he said was the “harmful agitation” that such countries had witnessed, he added: “The Sudanese people are alert and will not allow for any intrusion or attempt to destabilise the security of Sudan.”
The protests – which began in the northeastern town of Atbara and have spread to several cities – initially erupted over the rising costs of bread and fuel and other economic hardships, including skyrocketing inflation and limits on bank withdrawals.
But they quickly morphed into calls for Bashir, who has been in power for 29 years, to step aside.
Authorities have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to quell the unrest and imposed emergency laws and night-time curfews in some cities.
Officials say 30 people have died in the protests, however, rights groups have put the death toll at more than 40.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 military coup, has said any change of leadership could only come through the ballot box. He is expected to run for another term in office next year.
He was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur, and restricts his travel to friendly Arab and African countries.
Sudan’s economy has struggled to recover in recent years following the loss of about 80 percent of its oil reserves with the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
Reinforcing ‘bilateral relations’
Meanwhile, Sisi, who has been Egypt’s president since 2014, says he is working to restore stability following the turmoil triggered by the country’s uprising eight years ago, overseeing a widespread crackdown on opposition.
He said Bashir’s visit was “the culmination of the numerous efforts we made in the past year to reinforce bilateral relations.”
Concern grow over fate of protesters held in Sudan
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry voiced support for Sudan’s embattled government during a visit to Khartoum in December.
“Egypt is confident that Sudan will overcome the present situation,” Shoukry told reporters at the time, after talks with Bashir.
“Egypt is always ready to support Sudan,” he said.
Relations between the two countries had deteriorated when Egypt conceded the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia in 2016, leading to a reconfiguration of Cairo’s maritime borders with Khartoum.
Sudan filed a complaint with the UN Security Council in 2017 accusing Egypt of attempting to illegally annex the border area, commonly referred to as the Halayeb triangle, which has long been a thorn in the two nations’ fragile relationship.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies