Banks shuttered as Sudan opposition stages second day of strikes

May 29, 2019

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Banks in the Sudanese capital Khartoum came to a virtual standstill on Wednesday as protest and opposition groups organized a second day of strikes to pressure military rulers to cede power to civilians.

Several banks visited by a Reuters reporter were fully closed, and cash machines had not been restocked for several days. Employees at the central bank were also on strike.

“We are committed to the strike in order to achieve peaceful rule,” said an employee of the Blue Nile Mashreg Bank in Khartoum. “And we are ready to participate in civil disobedience if the Freedom and Change Forces ask us to.”

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) alliance had called for a two-day strike from Tuesday for public and private enterprises.

The action comes during a lull in talks between the ruling military council that forced out ex-President Omar al-Bashir last month and an alliance of protest and opposition groups. The two sides are deadlocked over who will control a political transition, though discussions continue at a lower level.

Protesters have kept up a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry since before Bashir was ousted.

Participation in the strike has been partial, with buses and most air transport still operating. Shops including clothes and shoe retailers where people buy gifts ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday ending the holy month of Ramadan next week, were open.

But the strike has been widespread in the financial sector, already struggling from an economic crisis that led to shortages of fuel and cash and helped trigger 16 weeks of mass protests against Bashir’s rule.

It was also being widely followed in the medical and power sectors, while port services were restricted to passenger ships for pilgrims, according to media and social media reports.

If no agreement is reached with the Transitional Military Council (TMC), the DFCF has said it will escalate by calling for an open strike and indefinite civil disobedience until power is handed to civilians.

(Reporting by Khartoum bureau; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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