Attackers in Darfur released a video Saturday in which they are seen blaming Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for the entire country’s dire economic conditions and demanding that he step down, while the military detained key members of his government.
The video, made in Arabic and released to the media in France, demanded that al-Bashir “step down and let us have a new president to lead the country in order to make a real change in the Darfur situation.”
On Friday, a senior Sudanese official named Ahmad Harun said the crisis was spurred by al-Bashir, whose forces have been fighting rebels in the region for years. In a statement published by state media, Harun accused al-Bashir of “destroying the Sudanese economy … by massively and intentionally damaging the institutions of the Sudanese state.”
Sudan said on Saturday it imposed a blockade on Darfur, where more than 30,000 people have been killed in bombings since February.
Though the video has no audio, Arabic language speakers identified in the clip were prominent figures from the ruling National Congress Party. One figure in the video, Imad el-Hilu, listed among the country’s seven vice presidents, was taken into custody Saturday.
Sudan’s latest troubles stem from a presidential decree ordering strikes in the civil service, according to the state-run Sudan Tribune. Such measures were rarely given in previous anti-regime protests.
Thursday’s unrest, in which government supporters shot and killed at least seven people, represents the most serious challenge yet to al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup 30 years ago. While al-Bashir has largely held on to power since then, his opposition has steadily grown over the years, as the government’s relations with the United States and oil-producing partners have soured.
Regional Sudanese news outlets have reported that the northern capital of Khartoum and other nearby towns were in lockdown following the demonstrations. Troops were deployed in the streets and security forces have been preventing people from leaving certain areas.
Protests erupted last Friday in northern Khartoum and spread throughout the capital and surrounding areas. According to the Sudan Tribune, at least 6,000 people attended Friday’s protests, marking a significant rise from the previous week’s protest.
At least seven people have been killed during a three-day period of protests in the Nile River state of North Darfur.
Protesters in Khartoum have also condemned a decision by the state security service to revoke broadcasting licenses for several radio stations, according to multiple news outlets, according to State News Agency SUNA. Al-Bashir, also the leader of the ruling National Congress Party, has been president since 1989.