KHARTOUM (Reuters) – More than 1,000 Sudanese protesters blocked one of the capital’s main roads for several hours on Thursday in a sign of growing impatience with the government’s promises of reform and development.
Sudan has broken up dozens of small anti-government protests throughout the north this year inspired by popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. But the movement to topple the government has failed to attract wider support. Dozens of activists remain in jail without charge.
Riot police and plain-clothed security men surrounded the demonstration, the largest yet, which stopped all movement on the capital’s main goods route for most of the working day.
A full gas tanker in the middle of the protesters stopped police firing their teargas canisters, Reuters witnesses said.
“Liars, liars,” the protesters shouted at government officials.
Residents in the area had demanded speed restrictions on the new highway and the protest followed a fatal accident on Thursday. Residents said 10 people had been killed on the road this year. Ruling party supporters joined the protest.
Sudan has built numerous highways through the capital but with little enforcement of road laws, traffic is chaotic and there are few pedestrian crossings. Hundreds die on the roads every year.
“This highway cuts through two residential areas and it should not even come through the capital at all,” said Rami Youssef, 25, one of the protesters.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has promised to step down at the next election in four years, after 26 years in power. His party took over in a 1989 bloodless coup.
But growing voices of dissent, even from within his ruling party, are calling for more immediate action to prevent the kind of popular uprising that toppled long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and has spread to other nations including Libya.
After the road was blocked for most of the day, government officials brought in trucks to start work on traffic lights.
“This shows how quickly things can get done,” said Yousssef.