Sudan: nearly four months of protests

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Khartoum (AFP) - Protests in Sudan in December over a hike in bread prices have escalated into nationwide demonstrations demanding that President Omar al-Bashir end his 30-year grip on power.

In the biggest rally to date, thousands of protesters have since April 6 been camped out around the army headquarters in Khartoum, calling for military backing.

Officials say 38 people have lost their lives since the protests started and nearly 2,500 have been arrested.

Rights groups give a higher death toll of 51 dead, accusing authorities of a heavy-handed crackdown.

Here is a timeline.

- Bread protests -

Hundreds take to the streets in central Atbara and other cities on December 19 to protest the government's tripling of bread prices after a three-week shortage and amid steep inflation.

Food price hikes had already provoked sporadic demonstrations in January 2018 but were swiftly curbed.

The new protests erupt the same day as the main opposition leader -- ex-prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi who was driven out in Bashir's 1989 coup -- returns from exile.

Some protesters chant "No to hunger"; in Atbra they set fire to the headquarters of Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP).

- First deadly clashes -

The protests spread to Khartoum and other cities on December 20, demonstrators chanting "freedom, peace, justice" and calling for "the fall of the regime".

Clashes break out as police try to disperse the crowds and eight demonstrators are killed. Other NCP offices are torched.

Troops are deployed in Khartoum and other cities.

On the sixth day of demonstrations, Bashir breaks his silence on December 24 and vows "real reforms".

- Bashir vows no change -

With no let-up in the near-daily demonstrations, 22 political groups issue a joint call on January 1 for a "new regime".

Bashir sacks the health minister on January 5 over rising costs of medicine.

Four days later, thousands chant support for Bashir at a rally in Khartoum but in the capital's twin city of Omdurman there are more deaths in anti-government protests.

On January 13, protests spread to the war-torn region of Darfur. Bashir tells supporters there: "Demonstrations will not change the government."

- Emergency rule -

Western powers on January 17 call on Sudan to respect the rights of demonstrators.

The following week the media accreditation of several Sudanese journalists working for foreign outlets is withdrawn.

On February 11, Human Rights Watch releases videos documenting violence by security forces against protesters including live fire, tear gas and beatings.

Ten days later, security agents arrest several opposition activists as protesters try to march on the presidential palace.

Bashir declares a nationwide year-long state of emergency on February 22, also dissolving the federal and provincial governments and appointing army and intelligence officers as provincial governors.

Two days later, he swears in a new prime minister as riot police confront hundreds calling for him to resign.

On March 1, Bashir hands his powers as chief of the ruling NCP to his deputy.

- Protest camp at army HQ -

The protests become less regular after the state of emergency and Bashir on April 4 acknowledges that demonstrators had "legitimate" economic concerns, calling for dialogue.

But on April 6, thousands march again in Khartoum, gathering for the first time outside the military headquarters and chanting "One Army, One People".

They set up camp at the complex, which also houses the president's residence, defying attempts by security forces on April 9 to dislodge their sit-in with teargas and gunshots into the air.

The United States, Britain and Norway call the same day on the Sudanese authorities to deliver a plan for "political transition".

Sudan's police orders its forces to avoid intervening against protesters, following the policy of non-intervention by the military.