Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Sunday pledged to bolster rural development, as he seeks to face down anti-government demonstrations that have rocked cities and villages nationwide.
He held a series of rallies across the country, promising access to electricity, education and health care, after weeks of protests considered the biggest threat to his 30-year rule.
On Sunday, he travelled across North Kordofan, addressing hundreds of people in three separate televised rallies, including a night-time event in the state capital of Al-Obeid.
In the morning he addressed hundreds of villagers in the day’s first rally, promising to bring clean drinking water to rural areas “across Sudan”.
Bashir says Sudan protesters trying to emulate Arab Spring
The speech came after he inaugurated a new 340-kilometre highway linking North Kordofan to Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum.
“Building such a road in present economic conditions is not an easy thing to achieve,” said Bashir, after being escorted to the stage by dozens of men on camels as crowds of villagers clapped and whistled to Sudanese tunes.
“Along this road we will bring electricity to boost the region’s growth.”
‘Building a new Sudan’
Hours later Bashir addressed a second rally where he called on the country’s young men and women to help develop the country.
“The youth, for whom we have built universities, have to be ready to continue with the mission of building a new Sudan,” he said in a village where hundreds had gathered.
The statement came afer Prime Minister Moutaz Mousa Abdallah on Saturday called the protest movement a “respectable youth movement” and said its voice should be heeded.
As darkness fell, Bashir, dressed in traditional robe and turban, spoke to hundreds of cheering supporters, including students, at an open air stadium in Al-Obeid where authorities have renovated an existing hospital.
“Patients often go to England, India or Jordan for surgeries, but now we can do them at Al-Obeid,” he said as crowds cheered and loyalists set off fireworks.
Demonstrations erupted in Sudan in December after a government decision to triple the price of bread unleashed frustrations at years of deteriorating living conditions and growing hardship.
Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence, while Human Rights Watch says at least 51 have been killed.
Only through elections
Bashir’s attempts to rally support have so far failed to halt the wave of discontent.
The group leading the demonstrations calling for fresh protests over the next few days starting Sunday night.
The president’s rallies came a day after more than 3,000 people on Saturday protested his rule following the brutal death of an anti-government demonstrator.
Teacher Ahmed Alkhair was arrested during an anti-government protest on Thursday and died two days later while in custody, according to the independent doctors’ association Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.
Alkhair’s family said the 36-year-old’s body showed signs of torture.
In response, thousands of people took to the streets of the eastern city of Khashm al-Qurba on Saturday where Alkhair’s funeral had taken place. Protesters called for al-Bashir to step down.
Bashir and other senior Sudanese officials have repeatedly said that the government can be changed only through elections.
The leader, who came to power in a coup in 1989, is considering running for a third elected presidential term in polls due next year.
Can Sudan’s protests succeed? | Inside Story