Sudan has said deadly protests in the country, and criticism from within the ruling party, will not make it reverse its decision to hike fuel prices.
“No, it is not possible at all. This is the only way out,” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told AFP news agency in a telephone interview on Sunday.
The near-doubling of petrol and diesel prices last Monday sparked the worst unrest in the 24-year history of President Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
Authorities say 33 people have died over the past week, but activists and international human rights groups say at least 50 have been gunned down, mostly in greater Khartoum.
Osman said authorities had to intervene when crowds turned violent.
“This is not (a) demonstration,” he said. “They attacked the gas stations. They burned about 21.”
Osman said the government knew “riots” would occur if the cost of fuel went up but the reduction of subsidies on petroleum will save billions of dollars.
“Our economy cannot tolerate such support,” he said. “We have to carry on. We know it is a bit heavy for the people.”
Sunday’s statement comes as a retort to calls by Islamic religious leaders and ruling party reformers for the government to cease fuel price increases which sparked a wave of deadly protests.
“We advise the government to turn back to God and provide justice for all Sudanese people, Muslim and non-Muslim,” the unofficial group of Muslim leaders – who often criticise the regime for straying from Islam – said in a statement late Saturday.
The increase in cost of fuel, which followed a similar hike last year, came as part of a series of government austerity measures trying to stabilise a stricken economy.
Sudan has lost approximately three quarters of its oil production when South Sudan became independent in 2011.
At present, more than two million people live in poverty in the region with 300,000 living without proper access to food or water. [AFP]