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KHARTOUM - 31 Dec 2019

Sudan protests: Bashir pledges fair polls

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has ignored calls to step down immediately following violent protests that hav seen dozens of people killed.

In his address on the eve of Sudan’s 63rd anniversary of independence on Monday, Bashir pledged he will guarantee free and fair elections in 2020 to allow for a peaceful transfer of power.

Legislators loyal to Bashir are rallying support in the national legislative assembly for constitutional amendments to allow Bashir, 74, to run for elections in 2020.

The Sudanese leader called upon his rivals to prepare themselves to take part in the upcoming general elections.

However the comments are unlikely to calm demonstrators who have been calling for his immediate resignation since last week.

The televised address comes one day after the president, who has been in power for almost 30 years, ordered the police to ensure that there is order in the country amid rare protests and rising political tensions.

Hours before his address, the police used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters after they began to march toward the presidential palace to press their demands for the current government to resign.

Activists said police have fired live ammunition during the protests and that some protesters have sustained injuries. It remains unclear if there are deaths.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International has said it has “reliable reports” that 37 protesters were killed in the protests, which began on 19 December. The government admitted that 19 people were killed.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of war crimes in Darfur.