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Sudan opposition groups issue first joint call for Bashir to resign

Opposition groups, including Communist Party and labour group that led protests, call for Bashir to step down
Sudan has seen protests since 19 December sparked by rising food prices (Reuters)

Sudan's main opposition groups, the Communist Party and the Sudanese Professionals Association – an umbrella group of labour unions that has led demonstrations since 19 December - issued their first joint call for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The groups appeared on Wednesday at their first joint news conference and called for the government to step aside and pave the way for four years of transitional governance, to be followed by elections, according to a Reuters news report.

"We have decided on the programme that would take place after the regime falls and (will) hold a constitutional dialogue conference at the end of the transitional period to decide how Sudan will be ruled," said Mohamed Mokhtar al-Khatib, the general secretary of the Communist Party.

Sudan has seen nationwide protests for almost two months that were initially sparked by rising food prices and cash shortages and have since turned into an expression of opposition to Bashir.

Why are Sudanese protesting against their government?

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Sudan protests

Sudanese protests have evolved in the space of less than six months from complaints about bread prices to calls for long-term leader Omar al-Bashir to go and demands for a civilian-led transition to democracy.

Here's a summary of the key moments so far since the protests began. 

19 December 2018: People take to the streets in the city of Atbara to protest against a government decision to triple the price of bread, torching a local ruling party office. By the next day protesters on the streets of Khartoum and other cities calling for "freedom, peace, justice". Police try to disperse the crowds, resulting in at least eight deaths. Dozens more will be killed in the weeks of protest that follow

22 February 2019: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declares a nationwide state of emergency. He swears in a new prime minister two days later, as riot police confront hundreds of protesters calling for him to resign

6 April: Thousands gather outside the army's headquarters in Khartoum, chanting "one army, one people" in a plea for the military's support. They defy attempts by state security forces to dislodge them and troops intervene to protect them

11 April: Military authorities announce they have removed Bashir and that a transitional military council will govern for two years. Despite celebrations at Bashir's demise, protest leaders denounce the move as a "coup" and the protesters remain camped outside army headquarters.

14 April: Protest leaders call on the military council to transfer power to a civilian government

20 April: Sudan's military rulers hold a first round of talks with protest leaders

27 April: The two sides agree to establish a joint civilian-military ruling council, but talks stall over differences in the composition of the council, with both sides demanding a a majority

15 May: With negotiators reported to be close to agreeing a three-year transition to civilian rule, military leaders suspend talks and insist protesters remove barricades outside the army's headquarters. Talks resume on 19 May but break down again on 20 May, with the opposition insistent that a civilian must head the transitional governing body

28 May: Thousands of workers begin a two-day strike to pressure the military rulers and call for civilian government

3 June: At least 35 people killed and hundreds injured, according to opposition-aligned doctors, as security forces firing live ammunition move to disperse the protest camp outside army headquarters

4 June: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the military council, announces that all previous agreements with protest leaders are scrapped and says elections will be held in nine months

Hundreds of opposition members at Wednesday's news conference chanted "Fall, that's all," - one of the main rallying cries of the protests, Reuters reported.

Bashir held his own rally in the capital Khartoum and called for peace.

"We reaffirm that this year 2019 will be the year of peace and the permanent silencing of the rifle in Sudan, and there is a will to continue peace in Sudan and convince the other side of the utility of peace," Bashir said.

Authorities have blamed the unrest on "infiltrators" and foreign agents and say they are taking steps to resolve Sudan's economic problems.

Security forces have used tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, and have arrested more than 1,000 people, including opposition leaders, activists, protesters and journalists since the protests broke out.

Rights groups say that more than 55 people have been killed in the protests, though Sudanese officials put that number at 31.