Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators demanding President Omar al-Bashir step down converged on his residence on Saturday in what appeared to be the biggest rally since anti-government protests erupted in December, witnesses said.
Security forces fired teargas, beating and arresting some of the protesters as they tried to stop the crowds marching from at least three directions towards the presidential compound, which also houses the defence ministry and security services ‘headquarters.
But thousands of demonstrators, waving Sudanese flags and placards demanding Bashir step down, managed to reach the compound’s gates where government troops stood guard without driving them back.
“There are crowds are as far as the eye can see,” said a Reuters witnesses at the scene, adding that it looked to be the largest single gathering since the protests began on Dec. 19.
Activists called Saturday’s protest to mark the anniversary of mass demonstrations in 1985 that drove the military to topple former strongman, President Jaafar Nimeiri.
Representing the most sustained challenge to Bashir since he took power in a 1989 coup, the wave of protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages but evolved into demonstrations against his 30-year rule.