Sudan Uprising

Photo Source: Middle East Eye

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

The protests in Sudan, which started in December 2018 haven't faded away even after three months.  However, this mass revolution, in the country, hasn’t been broadcasted well, on the global media, besides the regional African media, at large.

This new Sudan uprising has been largely supported by trade unions, professional association and opposition groups.

There is profound street anger on the streets. In 2013, Sudan dodged the Arab Spring, but the people can no longer hold themselves now. The protests initially started as a demonstration against rising bread and fuel prices. Currently, there are also low limits of ATM withdrawals. Since last year, Sudan’s inflation was the third highest in the world. Now, thoroughly upset over his rule, protestors are demanding that he should stop ruling them. They are vying him for a Hosni Mubarak style resignation.

Football ultras, associated with Hilal Team, have blocked bridges. Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), a grassroots movement, has made a strong dissent against the monarchy. In realpolitik terms, it is called a ‘fluid political landscape.’

Local media and international media have called these protests as ‘peaceful demonstrations’ that have happened in 14 out of 18 provinces in the Sudan region. Some protestors even tried to enter the Parliament, including the Presidential Palace in Khartoum.

Sudanese British Billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim said: “People are hungry, and they see the looting of the country’s resources by the ruling clique. But, when they are pushed against the wall, they just have nothing to lose.”

Various media sources have cited that around 31 people have died in the ten-week-old uprising, while several opposition groups and human rights group, put the number to around 51, and there have been over 2600 arrests. Assorted police and army vehicles were seen shooting into the crowds, detaining and assaulting journalists, activists and opposition figures.

The political slogan, ‘just fall, that is all’ (tasqut bas), was first used on Twitter, and Facebook pages, during December 2018. In a Foreign Policy Oped, Nesrine Malik calls the protests fuelled by “organisational planning” and “spontaneous emotion”. He further writes: “Bashir’s government, which came to power via a military coup in 1989, has grounded Sudanese society to a nub. The country’s basic institutions—Sudan’s civil service, its economy, its education system, it's military, its very culture—were degraded to better maintain the government’s grip on power, and to ensure its monopoly on the means of economic extraction.”

Sudan’s economy has been in tatters since it broke away from South Sudan in 2011. After the division, it controlled 70 per cent of the oil wells, which gave the country, a significant source of foreign currency. However, the Sudanese Pound, saw a significant drop in its value against US dollar, since the protests began. In the recent past, people were also unhappy about the scrapping of the Gezira Irrigation Scheme, a massive agricultural project, between the banks of Blue and White Nile, near Khartoum. With the result, farmers, herders and several unemployed workers, moved to Khartoum to make out a living for themselves. The fortunate ones, with networks and money, moved to other places in the Gulf region.

Analysts at Khartoum believe that these economic woes stem from various IMF led structural changes that were mainly instituted, since 2017. But, the government officials are also firm on a belief that these protests are fuelled by some ‘foreign agents and traitors’, intending to harm the national interests of the country.

Despite these ongoing protests, the regime of President Omar al Bashir, known as ‘Inqaz’ (salvation), is in no mood to step down. Since the 1980s, Sudan saw a civil war that spread from Nuba Mountains to the south of Darfur. He had seized power again in 1989, with a cohort of military officers, which declared the “national salvation revolution.”

As of now, Bashir has promised an increase in the salaries for the civil servants, and increased health insurance, too. In January 2019, the Sudanese government passed a budget that aimed to reduce inflation, from 70 per cent to 27 per cent. He also announced new regulations for trading and transporting gold and foreign currency. But, none of these measures has stopped the protests, as they have entered the third month.

That’s why the Sudanese president declared a state of emergency in the month of February 2019. He dissolved the national government as well as the regional government and replaced it with senior military officials. He also fired his longtime ally General Bakri Hasan Salih as vice president, and replaced him with General Awad Ibn Awof, a hardline minister, who has been criticised, due to his role in the Darfur conflict, and he has several American sanctions against him.

As per a regional analyst, working for Africa Confidential: “Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, as well as Doha, have regarded Bashir as a fickle friend because of his tendency to play both ends against the middle. He has pledged allegiance in the past in return for subsidies and then gone his own way.”

Bashir also is known to have differences with United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, after the recently concluded African Summit in Ethiopia. International Criminal Court also wants him for war crimes in Darfur.

Since the political unrest escalated, there have been around twenty deflections by various parties, who abandoned the reconciliatory dialogue initiated by National Party Council (NPC), and support the opposition.

Political upheavals are not new in Sudan. In 2013, amidst the succession of South Sudan, the government violently cracked down protestors, resulting in the death of 185 people, according to Amnesty International. There were protests in 2018 as well, where slogans such as “Freedom, Peace, Justice” and “Revolution” were chanted on the streets. To quell the situation, he had declared a one-year state of emergency. For this move, there was an outbreak of protests in the northern town of Atbara, in 2018.

Several political commentators, such as Abdinor Dahir, are of an opinion that this regional instability might propel further unrest in neighbouring Egypt, Chad, Libya and South Sudan. He further notes that this continuing protests would also prove detrimental for international trade, especially navigation from the Red Sea, which is already affected due to war in Yemen, and pirate operations in the Gulf of Aden. Sudan is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries, in Africa (currently holding 2.2 million IDPs and 695,000 refugees from South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Eritrea). Any kind of major regional instability would mean that it could propel a new wave of refugees, towards the shores of Europe.

In March 2019, a senior military source dispelled some breaking information to Middle East Eye, where Salah Gosh, head of Sudanese intelligence, was accused of having the support of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to oust al-Bashir as president. The unknown source also cited his private talks with Yossi Cohen at the Munich Security Conference between 15-17 February 2019. Gosh was also believed to have attended meetings with several European intelligence chiefs, and the head of common media centre. It has been called a ‘plot hatched by Israel’s Arab allies.’

Gosh has been known, as the CIA’s man in Khartoum, and American intelligence wants this man in place, replacing Omar al Bashir’s 30-year rule. He was also their spy chief, during the 2000s, in their war on terror against al-Qaeda, even visiting the US in 2005, when Sudan was in their list of state-sponsored terrorism.

As of now, the uprising is also inspiring Sudanese American teens, who have been drawing parallels between the American civil rights movement and the Sudan uprising.

The older Sudanese American generation had fled the country to escape Bashir’s flagrant human rights violations and flagrant corruption. The people of their older generation have revolted before, during 1964 and 1985. It seems that the bad old times of anarchy and misrule are back in their home country.


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