DR Congo poll: The divisive aftermath of Tshisekedi's victory

The elections board in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, early Thursday declared a president-elect in what will become the first peaceful transition of power in the troubled country.

Felix Tshisekedi, 56, was named winner of hotly contested elections of December 30, 2018. Son of a deceased opposition veteran will take over from outgoing Joseph Kabila.

The provisional results by CENI showed that Tshisekedi got over seven million votes representing over 38% of valid votes cast. He beat another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu, who came in second with about 35%.

Since the results were declared, there has been a series of reactions: victory celebrations in the capital Kinshasa, reported protests by Fayulu supporters and a diplomatic doubt as well as government and ruling party concession.

This LIVE page is to follow closely developments in the wake of the declaration. 

Claims of Kabila – Tshisekedi plot: how true? 

A number of people on social media are drawing conspiracy theories around the Tshisekedi victory, claiming that a deal must have been reached between the president-elect and the outgoing president.

The theorists hold that with the ruling party’s candidate clearly staring at defeat, Kabila opted for the lesser of two evils in the opposition camp, the CACH coalition.

The other camp led by Martin Fayulu – the Lamuka coalition – has two of Kabila’s political arch rivals in the persons of Moise Katumbi, a former governor of Katanga Province and Jean Pierre-Bemba – a former vice president.

Below are some of the claims about a Tshisekedi – Kabila “love story.”

Catholic Bishops say poll results ‘don’t add up’ 

The Catholic Church in DRC, CENCO, has reacted to the declaration of Felix Tshisekedi as president-elect of the country. 

The church said results announced by the elections board, CENI, did not match with tallies it had through its observers.

CENCO had last week declared that its records from the vote showed that there was an outright winner from the December 30, 2018 elections. It’s declaration was slammed by CENI and the ruling coalition.

They did not mention who was the winner in their tallies but its widely believed to be Martin Fayulu who leads an opposition coalition, Lamuka. Fayulu has rejected the results and called for observers to publish their figures.

Internet restored after release of results 

Internet has been restored across the country after a blackout that lasted over a week. Authorities justified the move and said it was to help avert the publication of fake results and compromising security.

People in the capital, Kinshasa, are now able to access the internet hours after the announcement of provisional results.

The BBC reports that persons in the eastern city of Goma had also confirmed that the internet was back. It remains to be known when the broadcast signal of French broadcaster, RFI and a local TV channel will be restored.

Amid the massive celebrations on the part of the Tshisekedi camp, pro-Fayulu supporters are protesting the defeat of their candidate.

Fayulu came second according to the results. He was leader of the Lamuka coalition, he has since called for the Catholic Church, SADC and AU to publish their versions of the results.

Brief about President-Elect Felix Tshisekedi 

1 – Full name: Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, born on June 13, 1963 – aged 56
2 – Son of veteran opposition leader, late Etienne Tshisekedi. Dad founded Union for Democracy and Social Progress, UDPS, in 1982.
3 – In early twenties, went to Belgium for university education, later became national secretary for external affairs for the UDPS, based in Brussels.
4 – Father died in early 2017, UPDS picked Felix as party leader and by default presidential candidate.
5 – Joined and abandoned Lamuka coalition. Weeks later he announced a two-man coalition with Vital Kamerhe, the CACH coalition, in Nairobi.
6 – Declared president-elect after December 30, 2018 elections.

Statement from UN Secretary-General 

The Secretary-General takes note of the announcement made by the Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) of the provisional results of the 30 December presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

He commends the Congolese people and political actors for the conduct of the presidential, national and provincial legislative elections, which saw a broad and inclusive participation of political parties. 

The Secretary-General calls on all stakeholders to refrain from violence and to channel any eventual electoral disputes through the established institutional mechanisms in line with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws.

The Secretary-General expresses the hope that the CENI, the Constitutional Court, the Government, political parties and civil society will each live up to their responsibility in preserving stability and upholding democratic practices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General further reiterates the continued support and commitment of the United Nations, in collaboration with regional actors and international partners, for the consolidation of peace, stability and development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General
New York, 9 January 2019

Results as released by CENI

1 – Monsieur Félix Antoine TSHISEKEDITSHILOMBO: 7,051,013 (38.57%.)
2 – Monsieur Martin FAYULU MADIDI: 6,366,732 (34.83%)
3 – Monsieur Emmanuel SHADARY: 4,357,359 (23.84%)

Voter turnout: 47.56%

Fayulu calls for publication of independent results 

A fellow opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, has rejected the results of the December 30, 2018 which said he came in second behind president-elect Felix Tshisekedi.

In a statement from the coalition he led, Lamuka, he asked the Catholic Church and the regional SADC observer mission and the African Union to release their result tallies from the vote.

Meanwhile there are reports of protests in Fayulu strongholds given that his supporters insist that he was the duly elected candidate. The Catholic Church last week said its tallies showed that an outright winner had won.

Foreign media outlets later reported that the said candidate was Fayulu whose coalition included two barred aspirants and two other presidential aspirants.

France and Belgium shocked by results 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for clarity on the election results, saying the surprise victory of Felix Tshisekedi was at odds with what was seen on the ground.

“We must have clarity on these results, which are the opposite to what we expected. The Catholic Church of Congo did its tally and announced completely different results,” Le Drian told CNews.

His Belgian counterpart also expressed similar views: “We have some doubts that we need to check and which will be debated in the coming days in the Security Council,” Mr Didier Reynders told the Belgian national broadcaster, RTBF.

Kinshasa slams Paris doubts over results 

DRC’s information minister, Lambert Mende, in his initial comments about the results said the ruling FCC coalition takes note of the results and that it was surprised but respected the work of the election board, CENI.

On the claims by French Foreign Minister, Mende said Kinshasa disapproved the words of Jean-Yves Le Drain. 

He slammed what he claimed was interference which he said the FCC rejects. He chided the Minister to approve a President for the Congolese people if he wanted.

Tshisekedi supporters break loose in Kinshasa

‘Democracy has triumphed’ – Kabila’s top advisor 

“Of course we are not happy as our candidate lost, but the Congolese people have chosen and democracy has triumphed,” one of outgoing Kabila’s top advisors has said.

Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi was reacting to the election results declared by CENI in the wee hours of Thursday. 

The ruling coalition’s candidate and former Interior Minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, came in third in the December 30, 2018 long-delayed elections.

Tshisekedi pays homage to Kabila 

“First of all I wish to thank God, the master of time and circumstances who allowed for such an event which a few weeks ago was still unimaginable. 

“That is why I follow it directly with – and I know many of you find it hard to accept – but I say it with sincerity, I pay homage to President Joseph Kabila, President of the Republic.”

“Today, we must no longer consider each other as adversaries but rather as partners in democratic change in our country.” Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Kinshasa, Tshisekedi said he would be the president “of all Congolese”.

Somalia's Puntland Elected New President

Somalia Punt-land

One of Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions on Tuesday witnessed a peaceful transfer of power, following a hotly contested presidential election that ousted the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas in the first round of voting.

Said Abdullahi Deni, who is likely to continue Puntland’s close cooperation with the United States, defeated his closest rival, Asad Osman Abdullahi. He was sworn in for a new five-year term.

Deni has taken a hardline against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab and a rival splinter faction that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, said Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research.

“He has campaigned as a reformist, promising to strengthen government institutions, fight corruption and stabilise the economy,” Bryden said.

A former Somali federal minister for planning, Demi won 35 votes out of the 66 lawmakers that voted, the speaker of Puntland’s parliament, Abdihakim Mohamed Ahmed, said.

He replaces the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, who served a single term and was eliminated in a first round of voting.

About Puntland

Puntland, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has an often tense relationship with the federal government of Somalia.

Six years ago, it was a hotbed of piracy, and hundreds of attacks cost the shipping industry billions of dollars.

But a combination of maritime patrols, stronger Somali security forces and better security protocols by mariners mean attacks are now rare.

Ramaphosa, Zuma put on united front at ANC rally

South Africa

Ramaphosa said Mandela, fondly known by his clan name, Madiba, also visited Dube’s grave after casting his ballot in the first democratic elections in 1994.

“Madiba said when he was at the gravesite, ‘Mr President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is free today, 27 April in 1994’, after casting his vote,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said on Tuesday he told Dube that South Africa had changed “immeasurably” and that the lives of South Africans had “improved”.

“We can report that SA is a nation among nations, as he had wished. A united, non-racial democracy founded on the principle of equal rights for all,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the country now had a progressive Constitution that not only recognised injustices of the past but required that necessary measures to achieve redress were taken. He praised the country’s institutions, independent judiciary, free media and active citizenry.

“Freedom has been unleashed and the darkness and the gloom that president Dube spoke about has passed,” said Ramaphosa.

Nigeria Buhari to focus on governing Nigeria rather than campaigning for second term

Nigeria

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday he would not lead his re-election campaign, choosing rather to focus on governance while Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the head of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leads efforts to win a second term.

The former Lagos state governor Tinubu helped Buhari become the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president in Nigeria, in 2015.

But the pair reportedly fell out after Tinubu was sidelined once he had helped swing support in the populous and more prosperous southwest.

Nigerians go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament on February 16, with governorship and state assembly polls scheduled for two weeks later.

READ MORE: 84 million Nigerians registered to vote in 2019 polls

Buhari, 76, wants a second, four-year term of office.

The former military ruler is under pressure for his record on security, the economy and tackling corruption, as well as questions about his own health.

Buhari chooses governance over campaigns

He has acknowledged that the campaign will be tough. But on Monday he told senior party members that while he would be “deeply involved”, he would not let campaigning get in the way of governing.

“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, my co-chairman, will be fully in charge,” he said. Buhari and Tinubu chair the APCPresidential Campaign Council.

Tinubu, 66, has long been rumoured to have presidential ambitions.

His chance might come in the 2023 elections, when the presidency nominally rotates to the south after eight years of a northern incumbent.

Buhari’s main opponent next month is former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Nigeria's Buhari says electoral commissioner is related by marriage

Nigeria

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and a recently appointed electoral commissioner are only related through marriage in their extended families, rather than by blood as alleged by the opposition.

The People’s Democratic Party on Thursday accused Buhari and the Independent National Electoral Commission of plotting to rig the election with the appointment of Amina Zakari, whom the party said is Buhari’s niece.

“President Buhari and Commissioner Amina Zakari don’t share a family relationship,” a spokesperson for the president tweeted on Friday.

“An inter-marriage occurred in their extended families, so the imputation of blood relationship between the President and the electoral commissioner is a simple lie,” he added.

Nigeria will hold presidential elections on February 16.

Elections in Africa’s most populous nation have for years been marred by allegations of irregularities including vote rigging, voter intimidation, cronyism and violence.

Opposition reject Zakari’s appointment

In a statement on Thursday, the People’s Democratic Party rejected Zakari’s appointment as “head of the collation of results,” calling her a “blood relation.”

A commission spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Buhari, who is seeking a second term, reassured voters in October that the election would be free and fair after international observers raised concerns over how a gubernatorial vote was conducted at the time.

The Head of State Paul Biya has appointed Joseph Dion Ngute as the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Cameroon.

Cameroon

Cameroon has a new Prime Minister in the person of Dion Ngute Joseph. His appointment was announced by a decree signed by Head of State, President Paul Biya on Friday.

The Prime Minister according to the governance structure is the Head of Government. Dion Ngute replaces long serving Philemon Yang in the role.

Born in March 1954, the last known government post he held was as Minister in the Presidency between 2 March 2018 – January 4, 2019 when he was announced Premier.

At at 2017, he was Cameroon Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations in charge of cooperation with the Commonwealth, and represented government at Oslo humanitarian summit on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

He also served as director at the Advanced School of Administration & Magistracy ENAM (1991-97). His appointment is part of a wider reshuffle by Biya who won a seventh term in office in October last 2018.

Instructively, he hails from one of Cameroon’s restive regions, the SouthWest which together with the NorthWest constitutes the Anglophone regions. 

His predecessor who held the post since 2009 was also from the region which is currently suffering a security crisis with separatists pushing for independence.

Reports indicate that his residence in his home region was torched barely twenty-four hours in the lead up to his appointment. 

Separatist elements have routinely attacked government officials in their armed struggle which has claimed lives and properties and led to massive internal displacement whiles others have fled into Nigeria.

Ethiopia PM fires press female aid, appoints male spokesperson

Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed has appointed a new press secretary, replacing Billene Seyoum, who was in November hailed as part of the premier’s gender progressive agenda.

Seyoum, who was appointed in November,alongside her female deputy, Helen Yosef, have now been replaced by two men; Nigusu Tilahun and Kassahun Gofe respectively.

Abiy’s government has championed gender-parity in government positions, appointing women to the positions of president, chief justice and electoral commission chief, in addition to naming a cabinet with as many women as men.

The new government spokesperson, Nigusu has previously served as director general of Amhara regional state communication affairs office, and also worked in the state’s culture and tourism bureau.

His deputy, Kassahun served as a state minister of urban development and construction and government communication affairs office (GCAO).

The prime minister’s officer is currently restructuring its communications, after the months of being directly handled by Abiy’s previous chief of staff, Fitsum Arega. 

The press secretariat is a new office under Abiy’s new chief of staff, Shimelis Abdissa.

Somalia Expelled high ranking UN official

Somalia

Somalia has expelled a high ranking United Nations official in the country, accusing him of interfering with national sovereignty days after he raised concerns about the actions of U.N.-supported Somali security forces.

The foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday that Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Somalia, “is not required and cannot work in this country”, effectively declaring the official persona non grata.

“The decision comes after he openly breached the appropriate conduct of the U.N. office in Somalia,” the statement read.

There was no immediate comment from the U.N. mission in the volatile, impoverished country in the Horn of Africa.

The United Nations is a major backer of Somalia, which is trying to claw its way out of the embers of the civil war that engulfed it in 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.

What did the UN official say?

The government’s move comes after Haysom sent a letter dated Dec. 30 to the interior security minister expressing concern over “the alleged involvement of UN-supported Somali security forces in the arrest of Mukhtar Robow on 13 December, the deaths of 15 civilians…on 13, 14, and 15 December…and the arrest of approximately 300 people involved in the demonstrations on 13, 14, and 15 December”.

Robow, the individual referred to in the letter, is a former Islamist al Shabaab militant whose bid to become a regional leader in the country in an election last month was blocked.

READ MORE: Former Al-Shabaab deputy leader to seek elected office

The Internal Security Ministry said that Robow was arrested on suspicion that he had brought militants and weapons back to the southern city of Baidoa, the capital of South West region where he is running for president. 

His arrest sparked clashes between militiamen loyal to Robow and Somali forces. Ethiopian security forces, who are part of an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, were also involved in the violence.

Al Shabaab has sought for over a decade to topple the central government and implement its strict version of Islamic law. It was driven out of the capital in 2011 but maintains a foothold in some regions including South West.

Robow, however, publicly renounced violence and recognised federal authority in 2017.

In the letter, Haysom asked the minister to explain the legal basis for Robow’s arrest. He also asked what action had been taken to investigate the circumstances of the deaths during the demonstrations in Baidoa following Robow’s arrest. He said that the U.N. understood that most of those detained were children.

The U.N. letter also contained an annexed joint letter from the European Union, Germany and Britain announcing the suspension of their support to the police in South West state due to their conduct during last month’s election. Haysom also detailed the U.N. support to the Somali police force and the South West regional police which includes the payment of stipends to the police.

SADC team meets DRC's main aspirants, CENI: Peace tops agenda

With less than 48 hours before the elections, the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to the 2018 General Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, met with three top presidential aspirants and the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).

Even though the meeting was meant to afford candidates a platform to engage each other, the peace factor was highlighted as the trio held that safeguarding the peace of Congo was paramount.

On their part, CENI – the elections body – pledged to ensure that a transparent process will be delivered throughout to record a free, fair and credible poll.

  • The meeting took place on 28th December, 2018. The day that campaigning officially ended.
  • Attendees included: Martin Fayulu for the Lamuka coalition.
  • Vital Kamerhe, for the Tshisekedi-Kamerhe coalition.
  • Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, candidate for the ruling FCC coalition.
  • Elections chief Corneille Nangaa represented CENI.
  • The main thrust of the meeting was on the state of preparedness for the polls.
  • The SEOM is led by Joseph Malanji, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Zambia.

As things stand now, three cities have been excluded from the process – Beni, Butembo and Yumbi. Two of them over the Ebola crisis and the latter over insecurity. 

Protests to have CENI rescind its decision either via activists, the opposition and Catholic church has so far failed. An estimated 1.2 million people will be affected by the move.

Portions of a statement released by SEOMread as follows: 

“In their remarks, the presidential candidates and representatives commended SADC for bringing together CENI and presidential candidates to engage on outstanding electoral matters. 

“They all highlighted the need to safeguard the peace throughout the remaining period of the electoral process and put the interest of Congolese people above everything.

“The President of CENI, Mr Nangaa assured the candidates and the SEOMleadership that the elections will be held as scheduled without further delays. Mr Nangaa expressed CENI’s commitment to engage with the political and electoral stakeholders in the final days leading to the elections to ensure that any outstanding issues are addressed in order to have credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.

“In a bid to ensure the transparency of the vote, Mr Nangaa said, all results from the manual count of ballot papers will be displayed at each polling station and that CENI invited all political party witnesses to accompany the envelopes containing ballot papers to the Local Centre for Results Compilation (CRCL).”

Sudan Protest 9, Opposition leaders arrested

Sudan

Civil society groups on Friday accused authorities of arresting at least nine opposition leaders, ahead of fresh anti-government protests expected after weekly Muslim prayers.

A committee of professional organisations involved in the protests said in a statement that authorities had raided a meeting of opposition leaders in Khartoum. They detained a total of nine people, including Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.

The raid came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.

The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.

Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were detained last Saturday and then released some nine hours later.

Sudan doubles down on social media amid protests 

A digital rights group is reporting that Sudanese authorities have clamped down on access to social media in the wake of spreading anti-government protests.

Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition – a group that fights internet shutdowns – have thus called on network operators in the country to push back from state pressure and keep people online.

The coalition said on Thursday that it was demanding that: “operators like MTNSudan and Zain Sudan to more transparently notify the public of restrictions and push back against government requests that could violate human rights.”

Government has officially denied any such move even though social media has been a hot spot for the organization of protesters in what started out as a protest against hikes in bread and fuel prices.

The death toll so far is another area of contention with the latest government figures pegged at below twenty whiles Amnesty said days ago that it was up to thirty-seven.

Journalists join protests

A network of Sudanese journalists went on strike Thursday in the wake of deadly protests sparked by a hike in bread prices, while opposition groups called for further rallies.

“We declare a three day strike from December 27 to protest against the violence unleashed by the government against demonstrators,” said the Sudanese Journalists’ Network which advocates free speech.

Journalists in Sudan frequently complain of harassment from the authorities, and the African country has a dire rating on international press freedom rankings.

Entire print runs of newspapers are often confiscated over articles deemed offensive by the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), which is spearheading the current crackdown on protesters.

Activists and opposition groups have called on people to take to the streets again over the next few days.

“We urge the Sudanese people to continue their demonstrations until success is achieved by overthrowing the regime,” the Sudanese Communist Party said in a statement.

Bashir’s allies demand investigation

A member of President Omar al-Bashir’s government on Wednesday called for a probe into the killings of protesters in demonstrations that have rocked the economically troubled country.

Sudanese authorities say eight protesters have been killed in clashes, but Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

At a press conference in Khartoum, Popular Congress Party senior official Idris Suleman said his party’s own reports indicated that 17 people “were martyred” and 88 wounded in the demonstrations.

“We call on the government to launch an investigation into the killings,” Suleman said.

“Those who committed these killings must be held accountable.”

Popular Congress Party is part of Bashir’s government and has two ministers of state in the cabinet and seven lawmakers in parliament.

Qatar keen on stability in Sudan

As anti-goverment protests in Sudan entered their fifth day, the presidency said on Monday that Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called his counterpart, Omar al-Bashir on Saturday to express his support.

Since Wednesday, cities across Sudan have been shaken by protests triggered by an economic deterioration. Protesters have also called for an end to Bashir’s 29-year rule.

“During the call Sheikh Tamim declared that his country stood with Sudan and was ready to offer all that was necessary to help Sudan overcome this ordeal, stressing his keenness for the stability and security of Sudan,” the statement said.

Qatar’s state news agency QNA confirmed the call.

Qatar and its regional rivals have increasingly vied for influence in Sudan and other countries on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Gulf states have also been an important source of funding for Sudan after it lost three-quarters of its oil output when the south seceded in 2011.

Opposition defends protesters

Sudan’s opposition leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, has called for Mahdi called for a “national and international investigation” into the deaths of protesters during price demonstrations that rocked the country this week.

A government decision to increase the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (from about two to six US cents) has sparked demonstrations across the country since Wednesday.

The protest movement “is legal and was launched because of the deteriorating situation in Sudan,” he said in his first news conference since returning home on Wednesday after almost a year in exile.

Death toll

While the official government position says at least eight people died during Thursday’s protests, while only person lost their life on Friday, the opposition said “22 people were martyred and several others wounded”. 

Madhi blamed ‘armed repression’ for the death of the protesters, while authorities insist they used restraint in containing demonstrations.

In a rare press conference, the head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, said seven people had been arrested in connection with the burning of ruling party office buildings in earlier protests.

“We recognise that we must have self-restraint and manage things wisely and take care of the lives of the people and of public property, and we are not bothered by demonstrations, but we are upset by the lapse in security,” said Saleh, also known as Salah Gosh.

Protests affect schools, internet

Web users reported problems accessing the internet, and some accused the government of blocking social media including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in a bid to stop protesters communicating. There was no comment on that from the government.

Authorities have declared states of emergency and curfews in cities in at least four of Sudan’s 18 states, according to local media.

The education ministry suspended some school or university classes in the states of al-Qadarif, White Nile and Nile River, private TV channel Sudania 24 reported.

The ministry has also announced that it would shutter universities in Khartoum state and schools and kindergartens in the capital city.

Protests ‘derailed’ by infiltrators

Sudan’s government has blamed nationwide protests that have left at least eight people dead, on ‘infiltrators’ and opposition parties, rather than the soaring prices.

The demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday were among the biggest since crowds came out against cuts to state subsidies in 2013.

Officials told Sudania 24 TV that six people died in protests in the eastern city of al-Qadarif and two more in northern Nile River state, without giving details on how they were killed.

“Peaceful demonstrations were derailed and transformed by infiltrators into subversive activity targeting public institutions and property, burning, destroying and burning some police headquarters,” government spokesman Bishara Jumaa said in a statement released by the official Sudan News Agency.

He did not name anyone but he also said the protesters, some of whom have called for the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir, were being exploited by opposition parties.

“Some political parties emerged in an attempt to exploit these conditions to shake security and stability in order to achieve their political agenda,” Jumaa said. He did not identify the parties.

He added that the demonstrations had been “dealt with by police and security forces in a civilised way without repression or opposition”.

Police fired teargas to break up a crowd of around 500 people in the capital Khartoum, then chased them through back streets and made arrests, a witness said.

Public anger in Sudan has been building over price rises and other economic hardships, including a doubling in the cost of bread this year and limits on bank withdrawals. At 69 percent, Sudan’s inflation rate is among the world’s highest.

Exiled opposition politician returns

Leading Sudanese opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to Sudan on Wednesday from nearly a year in self-imposed exile and called for a democratic transition in Sudan.

“The regime has failed and there is economic deterioration and erosion of the national currency’s value,” Mahdi, who was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and now heads the Umma party, told thousands of supporters.

Sudan’s president Omar al- Bashir, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, took power in an Islamist and military-backed coup in 1989. Lawmakers this month proposed a constitutional amendment to extend term limits that would have required him to step down in 2020.

Protests spread to other cities

Anti-government protests spread to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Thursday, as more people demonstrate against high prices and a liquidity crunch.

Around 150 protesters shut down a main street in Khartoum and chanted: “The people want the fall of the regime.”

Police in riot gear broke up the protests.

A member of parliament said a university student was killed when protests spread from Atbara city to al-Qadarif.

‘‘The situation in al-Qadarif has become dangerous and the protests have developed to include fires and theft and it’s now out of control,’‘ Mubarak al-Nur said.

Thursday protests start in Atbara

Security forces in Sudan fired teargas to quell protests on Thursday, after people took to the streets chanting anti-government slogans.

A state of emergency was declared in the Atbara city on Wednesday after hundreds of people protested against price increases and set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling party.

A curfew was declared from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Atbara — Sudan’s railway hub, with a large railworker population manning various lines, interchanges and maintenance workshops — the state security committee said.

Atbara is historically a hotbed for anti-government protests.

“Today, the headquarters of the ruling party in the city of Atbara and the headquarters of the local government and a fuel station were burned,” Hatem al-Wassilah, governor of the Nile River state, said on Sudania 24 TV.

Taming inflation

A decision to reduce bread subsidies this year sparked rare nationwide protests in Sudan after bread prices doubled. But Sudan increased flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.

Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea state, also saw limited protests on Wednesday, witnesses told Reuters.

Sudan’s annual inflation edged up to 68.93 percent in November from 68.44 percent in October.

Prime Minister Motazz Moussa said inflation for the full year 2018 was expected to be 63 percent.

Severe shortages of fuel and bread, both subsidised by the government, have forced people in the capital and other cities to queue at bakeries and petrol stations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Moussa said Sudan’s 2019 budget included 66 billion Sudanese pounds ($1.39 billion) in subsidies, 53 billion of which is for fuel and bread.