Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday extended ceasefires in two conflict-hit states, official media reported, where protest leaders have pushed for anti-government rallies.
Addressing supporters in South Kordofan state, Bashir said his “top priority” was ending fighting which erupted there in 2011.
“We are ready to go to any length to bring peace to this area,” Bashir, dressed in military uniform, told hundreds of cheering supporters at a televised rally in the state capital Kadugli.
Since June 2016, Bashir has declared several unilateral ceasefires in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, bringing relative calm to the three war-torn states.
The president extended the ceasefires for South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the official SUNA news agency reported, while no announcement was made for Darfur.
Bashir has been charged by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, accusations he denies.
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.
* Sign up to News24’s top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER
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 also pushed for protests in various states and camps for internally displaced people on Monday, “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.
Small demonstrations were however held in four villages in the state of Jazeera, witnesses said.
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 three decades after 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 spilt 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.