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Sudanese Dissidents Call For Mass Demonstration on Eve of African Tournament

Anti-government youth activists have called for mass demonstrations in Sudan on Thursday, the eve of the opening of the second African Cup of Nations for Home-Based Players (CHAN 2011), scheduled to kick off on February 4. The protests follow the death last week of a student in fierce clashes with security forces. Officials of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) noted that the recent have been relatively small and say they so far saw no need, with African team already arriving in the Sudanese capital, for a last minute cancellation of the tournament. The officials concede however that the impact on Sudan of the success of mass protests in Egypt that have forced President Hosni Mubarak to agree not to run for another term in elections scheduled for September remained to be seen. The Egyptian political earthquake is likely to inspire protesters in countries across the Arab world that have been seen anti-government demonstrations in the past six weeks. Against a backdrop of close ties between Egypt and Sudan, continued protests in Egypt demanding that Mubarak step down immediately instead of six months from now could fuel tension in its southern neighbour. Although the protesters numbered only in their tens, a Facebook group called Youth for Change that is organizing the protests has rapidly been increasing its membership, which at last count was more than 17,000. The call for Thursday’s demonstration demanded improvement of standards of living in Sudan, improved employment opportunities and enhanced political freedom. Twitter messages report at least one arrest on Tuesday during a small protest in Khartoum’s Jackson Square. The demonstrations started last weekend as results of a referendum were announced in which a majority in the oil-rich south of the country voted for independence from Sudan. The cessation is expected to motivate the Sudanese national team to perform well in the tournament. “Sudanese nationals, whichever side of the political divide, will draw pride from watching their flag flying at the 15-nation tournament. They will certainly want their country to prosper, at least for old time’s sake,” commented Uganda’s online news site New Vision. The organizers of Thursday demonstrations have not linked their protests to the CHAN tournament, but it is likely that they see the competition as an opportunity to draw attention to their cause as well as embarrass the government.

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