Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A sharp rise in commodity prices have triggered protests across Sudan, culminating in a fire that burned the Atbara headquarters of President Omar Al Bashir's party.
Price hikes and other fiscal woes are leading Sudanese to demand changes nationwide, including an overthrow of the current regime. Authorities imposed a curfew and declared a state of emergency in Atbara, as inflation is near 70 percent and the value of the pound has plummeted.
Bread prices have tripled, from one Sudanese pound to three, since the start of the year when the country stopped importing wheat. The move was meant to help Sudanese companies and create competition, but instead it's brought on a flour shortage. Sudan started subsidizing flour in November.
Wednesday's were the first organized protests in Atbara in years.
Police tried to disperse activists with truncheons but they continued to demonstrate by setting fire to tires, said eyewitness Mubarak Abdelrahim. Similar demonstrations happened in Port Sudan, where shops closed after bread prices increased.
Complicating matters, the state is still suffering economically 17 years after it lost up to 80 percent of its oil reserves in 2001, when the southern part of the country became independent.
Seizing the opportunity, long exiled leader Sadiq al-Mahdi returned to the country Wednesday. His government was overthrown in 1989 by the Sudanese military. He and his Umma party want to overthrow al-Bashir.
"The regime has failed and there is economic deterioration and erosion of the national currency's value," Mahdi said.