U.S. congress delegation visits Sudan as demonstration against Bashir increases

A U.S. congress delegation is visiting Sudan to meet with government officials and opposition leaders, ahead of the start of a second phase of dialogue between the two countries.

Sudanese lawmaker Mutwakil Ahmed said in a statement the U.S. delegation, led by Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, met with Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services and other officials on Saturday.

A report by the state-run SUNA news service said Gosh told the delegation about “the positive results of the President Al-Bashir recent decisions to maintain the country’s national security and cohesion.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of Sudanese took part in anti-government protests in the capital and other cities on Sunday as the government announced it had secured $300 million in loans to address the economic crisis that triggered the unrest.
The demonstrations began in December over price hikes and food shortages, and quickly escalated into calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down, posing one of the biggest challenges yet to his nearly 30-year rule. Security forces have responded with a fierce crackdown that has killed dozens of people.

The rallies are being led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions. Footage posted online showed dozens of people marching in Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, chanting: “Freedom, dignity and justice.” The also canted “the people want the fall of the regime,” echoing the popular slogan of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that briefly defied despotism in the region, but never made it to Sudan.

In some videos, security forces are seen using tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Also Sunday, dozens of families demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Service in Khartoum, calling for the release of detained relatives, according to activists who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.

A leading Sudanese geneticist was among those arrested. Muntasir Ibrahim, who heads the University of Khartoum’s Institute of Endemic Diseases, was arrested on Feb. 21 from a mosque in the capital, said his son, Gassim Ibrahim.

Gassim said his father and other university professors had drafted an initiative for a peaceful transition of power. Police had previously arrested his father on two occasions in January.

University lecturer Hadia Hasalaah also attended the demonstration in front of the security facility, calling for the release of her husband, Hisham el-Nour, also a university lecturer.

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