Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared open-ended ceasefires in two conflict-hit states in what appears to be a move intended to contain swelling protests against his three-decade rule.
State-run news agency SUNA announced on Monday that Bashir extended unilateral ceasefires in the two conflict-hit states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
"We are ready to go to any length to bring peace to this area," Bashir told supporters at a rally in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan state.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the three conflicts and millions displaced over the years after ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Khartoum, accusing it of economic and political marginalisation.
Since June 2016, Bashir has declared several unilateral ceasefires in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
But Bashir made no mention of Darfur, another conflict-hit state where he has been accused of leading a genocide against ethnic minorities.
Anti-government protests currently mushrooming across Sudan have spread to Darfur, and though they have not yet reached South Kordofan and Blue Nile, there have been calls for protests to be held there.
Activists and Sudan watchers are not convinced by the truthfulness of the olive branch, and see it as part of the regime's containment tactics.
The announcement is part of the regime's "confused day to day survival...and distraction strategy," Dr. Ahmed Mukhtar, a Sudanese doctor and activist based in Brussels, said.
The move could also be meant to focus the regime's resources on suppressing protests in the capital and surrounding areas.
"(Bashir) does not want any front lines at the prepheries while all forces [are] moblised in Khartoum," Mukhtar added.
"One can never trust a word Bashir says...today's announcement had two purposes: to remind the international community of the fact that a ceasefire has been in place for the past two dry-fighting seasons, but also--more ominously--to remind the same international community that he can end that ceasefire at any time," Eric Reeves, a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and Sudan expert, told The New Arab.
"For now, anything said about South Kordofan is merely an effort to distract from the reality on the ground elsewhere," he added.
Bashir's visit to Kadugli came a day after a protest movement called for demonstrations in the three states, following weeks of anti-government rallies in other parts of Sudan.
The Sudanese Professionals Association pushed for protests in various states and camps for internally displaced people, "to show our people's rejection of the dictator", the group said in a statement on Sunday.
There were no reports of rallies Monday in the three conflict-hit states, which have been devoid of demonstrations apart from a day of rallies in Darfur earlier this month.
Separately in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, hundreds of dock workers striked on Monday to protest the signing of a contract between the government and a Philippines company to operate the port for 20 years, which they fear could lead to their mass dismissal.
"The terms of the contract are unknown and could further fuel popular anger against the government and trigger mass protests in the city that has seen demonstrations early on," Abdul-Qader Bakash, a journalist in the area, said.
"Such sales of valuable national assets, including real estate and arable land, to Asian & Arab interests isn't new: it's one of the ways the al-Bashir regime has enriched itself for decades, selfishly mortgaging Sudan's future to generate immediate cash," Sudan expert Eric Reeves tweeted on Monday.
Port Sudan was the site of a massacre on 29 January 2005, when the regime violently suppressed a protest in the city killing 21 people. An opposition coalition has called for rallies on Tuesday to commemorate the 14-year anniversary of the massacre.
Protests in Sudan began on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread.
They have since spiralled into nationwide rallies against the government of Bashir, who has refused to resign nearly three decades since sweeping to power in a coup.
For years, anger has been mounting across Sudan over growing economic hardships and deteriorating living conditions.
That ire has now spilled onto the streets, with protesters chanting their main slogan: "freedom, peace, justice!"
Officials say 30 people have died in protest-related violence since the demonstrations began, while rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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