Edmonton community rallies in solidarity with protesters in Sudan

About a hundred demonstrators gathered in Churchill Square on Sunday to show support for anti-government protests in Sudan.

'Our people are saying enough is enough'

Members of Edmonton's Sudanese community protested in Churchill Square on Sunday in solidarity with anti-government demonstrations across Sudan. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

About a hundred demonstrators gathered in Churchill Square on Sunday to show support for anti-government protesters in Sudan.

Demonstrations spread across the northeast African nation this week amid public outcry over soaring food prices and fuel shortages. Police have responded with violence in some parts of the country, killing at least nine people, including five students, according to Amnesty International.

Malaz Hussein, 17, arrived in Edmonton as a refugee from Sudan 45 days ago, alongside her mother. The pair took part in Sunday's demonstration, shouting the same slogans being used by the protestors back in Sudan.

"We want our voices to be heard . . . we're trying to make our voice reach," Hussein said.

"People are suffering and everything is expensive — people can't live. People are dying of hunger and there's no medicine for them."

Malaz Hussein, 17, arrived in Canada 45 days ago as a refugee from Sudan alongside her mother. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The cost of some goods in Sudan has more than doubled this year, the BBC reported, as inflation surges to nearly 70 per cent and the exchange rate plummets under recent government-imposed adjustments.

The government has limited internet access and ordered newspapers to consult the national intelligence service in an attempt to stifle information about the protest, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

President Omar al-Bashir led a military coup in 1989 and has held on to power for the past three decades, a tenure marked by corruption and violent repression.

Awad Almamoun, a member of the Sudanese military before the coup, was also in the crowd on Sunday. Almamoun said he refused to support the regime in 1989, even as some dissident officers faced execution. He was jailed but eventually fled the country in 1993 before settling in Canada in 2001. 

He's calling on the Canadian government to end cooperation with Sudan.

"This regime kills people, innocent people," he said.

Most of Canada's $44.8 million in exports to Sudan in 2017 came from the agriculture industry, according to the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Canada doesn't allow military goods to be sold to Sudan, in compliance with UN resolutions dating back to the conflict in Darfur.

Amnesty International Canada called on the federal government to condemn the Sudanese government and rally its international allies to explore other ways to pressure President Bashir.

"The Sudanese who have come to Canada over these past many years have come largely because they've been fleeing repression, they've been fleeing war, they've been fleeing the harsh human rights violations that the Bashir government is responsible for," said Alex Neve, the human rights group's secretary general. 

"The Canadian government needs to be taking this quite seriously. They owe it to the Canadian citizens for whom this is very real, who are very concerned about their family and friends."     

Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 on charges of genocide and war crimes related to the protracted conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur.

Tharwat Sowareduhab, an organizer of Sunday’s demonstration, fled Sudan in 1990 following the military coup led by President Omar al-Bashir. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Tharwat Sowareduhab, an organizer of Sunday's demonstration, fled the regime in 1990. He said the demonstration was an opportunity for some of the nearly 3,000 people in Edmonton's Sudanese community to show support for protestors fighting for their rights and democracy in Sudan.

"Our souls just go out to them there," he said. "Our people are saying enough is enough."

Hussein fears for family and friends back home. 

"It's really so scary," she told CBC News. "You're away from the people you care about the most. You don't know what's going on there because you're not there."

Bashir has said he would not seek re-election in 2020, although the ruling National Congress Party announced it was backing the president as its candidate in defiance of a constitutional two-term limit on the presidency enacted in 2005.