, Khartoum, Sudan, Feb 3 – Sudan’s prime minister said Saturday that an ongoing protest campaign should “be respected,” but insisted only an election could decide the government’s fate.
“In my view, the voice of demonstrators needs to be respected,” Moutaz Mousa Abdallah told reporters in the capital Khartoum.
“It is a respectable youth movement.” But “me and my government believes that the only way to change the government is through elections,” he said.
Deadly protests have rocked the east African country since December 19 after the government announced a tripling of bread prices.
The protests swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.
Mousa Abdallah, who was appointed by Bashir in a reshuffle last September, said that the protest campaign — which has seen near-daily demonstrations — should be viewed with “an open mind”.
Anger has mounted across Sudan for years over deteriorating living conditions and growing hardship.
Mousa Abdallah said protesters’ expectations of better economic conditions represented a “legitimate demand”.
The protest campaign has been led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of teachers, doctors and engineers.
Analysts say the campaign has become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir, who swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
Bashir, 75, is considering running for a third elected presidential term in polls due next year.
He has likewise repeatedly said only an election can yield a change of government.
Mousa Abdallah said Saturday “we are ready to offer a transparent election process.”
Protesters chanting “freedom, peace, justice,” — the rallying cry of the protest movement — have demanded the president resign.
Bashir has remained defiant, addressing loyalist counter demonstrations and visiting regional allies to seek support.
Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations initially erupted in the farming town of Atbara, before spreading to Khartoum and other cities.
Rights group Human Rights Watch says at least 51 protesters have been killed in the violence.