Sudan police disperse latest food demo: witnesses

KHARTOUM — Sudanese riot police on Tuesday used tear gas to disperse youths demonstrating in Khartoum against unaffordable food prices, witnesses said, in the second incident of its kind in just two days.

Around 150 people, mostly under 25, gathered in the residential Burri district of the capital, shouting slogans such as: “People want regime change,” and “Food prices are rising like fire,” two witnesses told AFP.

The protesters burned tyres in the street, as they had done at a similar demonstration on Monday, and threw stones at the police, who again dispersed them with tear gas.

The government is scrambling to contain high food prices, which have hit ordinary Sudanese hard and forced painful household spending cuts.

Food inflation topped 27 percent last month, up from 19 percent in January, according to Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics, while traders in Khartoum say the price of beef has doubled, and demand slumped, since the start of the year.

A rare three-day meat boycott in protest at the soaring prices was called two weeks ago by the Sudanese consumer protection society, a local NGO.

The government has also encouraged people to stop eating meat, in a bid to bring prices down, but economists say the strategy has failed.

“The government has no control over the price of food. The call to avoid consuming some food products is not effective,” said Mohamed el-Jak, professor of economics at Khartoum University.

At the moment, and due to their lack of organisation, the protests appeared to be confined to the Burri area, which has enabled the government to stop them, he said.

“But still people are complaining and the prices are rising … If they are organised, and the trade unions get involved, the protests will cover a large number of people,” he added.

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