Demonstrators take to streets in capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman as President Omar al Bashir says Facebook and WhatsApp can't replace presidents.

Sudanese demonstrators light a fire as they participate in anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan, January 25, 2019.
Sudanese demonstrators light a fire as they participate in anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan, January 25, 2019. (Reuters)

Sudanese police fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators in the capital on Thursday, witnesses said, after President Omar al Bashir's remarks that only elections change governments, not social media. 

Chanting "freedom, peace, justice," the rallying cry of the protest movement that has rocked Sudan for weeks, demonstrators took to the streets in both capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman.

"Riot police are firing tear gas at protesters in north Khartoum but they are still demonstrating," a witness told AFP news agency, declining to reveal his identity out of fear for his safety.

Protesters also gathered in several villages in Jazeera State, south of the capital, witnesses said.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has headed the protest movement, has called for daily demonstrations but few have been reported in recent few days.

On Wednesday, the army's chief of staff, Kamal Abdelmarouf, said the armed forces were ready to face those who destabilised the security of the Sudanese people.

Mounting anger

The demonstrations began in the farming town of Atbara on December 19 over the government's decision to triple the price of bread.

They quickly mushroomed into nationwide protests widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir's rule since he took power in 1989.

Anger has been mounting for years over deteriorating living conditions and growing economic hardship in the east African country.

Sudan's economic woes triggered mass protests in 2013 that were put down at the cost of dozens of deaths.

Officials say 30 people have died in violence related to the latest protests.

Human rights groups say children and medics have been among more than 40 people killed since December 19.

Defiant president 

The veteran president has remained defiant, addressing loyalist counterdemonstrations and visiting regional allies to seek support.

Earlier, addressing a rally in the eastern town of Kassala, Bashir slammed his opponents' use of social media to mobilise protests.

"Changing the government or presidents cannot be done through WhatsApp or Facebook," Bashir told the crowd. 

"It can be done only through elections."

Bashir was speaking in Kassala, not far from the Eritrean border, and he told the rally he was reopening the border crossings after a year-long closure which had hit the area's economy.

Source: AFP