Sudan tribesmen mourn 'martyrs of 2005' in anti-govt demo

The death of 21 demonstrators 14 years ago were commemorated with a sit-in against President Omar al-Bashir's government.
The death of 21 demonstrators 14 years ago were commemorated with a sit-in against President Omar al-Bashir's government.
Image: Tomas Griger/123rf

Sudanese tribesmen from the Red Sea town of Port Sudan Tuesday mourned the deaths 14 years ago of 21 comrades with a sit-in against President Omar al-Bashir's government, witnesses and activists said.

On January 29, 2005, crowds of people from Beja tribe held a protest in the town calling on Khartoum to allocate more resources to the east Sudan region where the tribe hails from.

But in ensuing clashes with government forces, 21 demonstrators were killed, according to activists.

Since then every year on January 29, Beija tribesmen mark the deaths with a sit-in at Port Sudan.

On Tuesday, groups of people began the sit-in, but turned the event into a protest against Bashir's three decades rule, witnesses and activists said.

Chanting "freedom, peace, justice," the key slogan of the ongoing anti-government movement, the tribesmen gathered at a downtown square, witnesses said.

"We are using our annual anniversary of mourning the 21 martyrs of 2005 to do a sit-in as part of the movement started by the SPA," Beja activist Abdallah Mussa told AFP from Port Sudan.

He was referring to the Sudanese Professionals Association that has led the protest movement against Bashir's government.

"This sit-in is not just to mourn the 2005 deaths, but also to mourn the deaths of those who have died in the uprising since December."

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19 when angry crowds took to the streets against a government decision to triple the price of bread.

But the protests have grown into anti-government rallies calling on Bashir to step down.

Bashir, who swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has weathered several protests over the years, but analysts say the SPA-led movement has emerged as the biggest challenge yet to his iron-fisted rule.

The veteran leader has rejected calls to step down, and blamed the violence on "infiltrators" among the demonstrators.

Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence since the demonstrations began, while rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed.

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