Making Sense of Sudan Revolts

I’ve been picking though the various updates on the demonstrations in Sudan, admiring the determination of the Sudanese activists to develop momentum to purge their country of its predatory government.

Here’s a brief summary of events and details that caught my attention:

June 16: Anti-government protests first erupted at the University of Khartoum over the removal of fuel subsidies and the sharply rising prices of basic commodities. Many blame these burdens and the 30% inflation rate on not just the loss of 75% of oil revenues after the secession of South Sudan but on the government’s vast investment in weaponry and support for its military and security apparatus. Critics also point out rampant corruption, police impunity and restrictions on media and other freedoms. Most of these latter issues have existed for years but were seldom publicly expressed with an eye toward change.

June 22:  (Sandstorm Friday) The protests spread beyond the core of student activists into several neighborhood of the capital. Sudanese police reportedly used tear gas and nerve gas that caused paralysis, twitching and suffocation among dozens of people leaving the Al-Anser mosque. Witness said that police prevented media from covering the protests.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets following Friday prayer in Al-Obied, the capital of North Kordofan State. Witnesses said the protesters were chanting, “we will not be ruled by Kafouri’s thief” in reference to President Al-Bashir who lives in Khartoum’s affluent neighborhood of Kafouri. Police used teargas and batons to disperse the protestors.

July 5: The cities of el Obeidh, Omdurman el Thowrah, Um Dwanban, Medani, Kosti and Port Sudan, some of which joined the protests recently, are continuing to protest. Demonstrations continue at the University of Khartoum. Security forces are reported to have used excessive force against the demonstrators. Hundreds of people have been beaten and wounded by machetes. Security services confiscate cameras and arrest any media attempting to document the arrests, threatening beatings and imprisonment.

Sugar has started to disappear from markets with the approach of Ramadan (when it is heavily consumed). There are long queues to buy bread, an essential of Sudanese meals.

The media in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have started publishing on the current protests – something they did not do in the past. One report noted: “It is also worth mentioning that women too have been actively participating in these protests. There are some areas where women have led demonstrations, for example Ombadah el Sabeel, and the initial spark that started student demonstrations at the University of Khartoum was ignited by female students.”

President Al-Bashir, who has been in power fro 23 years, has referred to the protestors as “bubbles,” “vagabonds”  “foreigners,” “germs” and, at one point, accused street children of fomenting the protests.

July 9: Activist groups say more than 2,000 people have been arrested since the protests began. Women activists have faced arrests and long-term detentions, an unprecedented response in Sudan.

July 11: Sudanese opposition party leaders are urging the Sudanese to ride the “wind of the Arab Spring” and take to the streets in peaceful demonstrations. Bashir, however, is adamant that these protests be put down. Bashir said, “They talk of an Arab Spring. Let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies.”


Here’s a recommendation from Christian Caryl in Foreign Policy.

“Governments that sponsor Arabic-language news broadcasts should step up their coverage… and boost signals to ensure that more Sudanese can receive their programming.”  And “Editors at the big Western media outlets should send more reporters to illuminate the latest events in Sudan — and not because that would support budding democrats. Quite simply, there’s a huge story [emphasis mine] in the making here. Omar al-Bashir is now Africa’s longest-serving autocrat. Like Qaddafi, he’s been the instigator of countless conflicts — not only against his own citizens in places like Darfur or South Kordofan, but also among his neighbors. (He even lent his support to Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army.) His fall would offer the opportunity of a fresh start not only to Sudan but to an entire region. Surely that’s a story worth covering.”

And all of us citizens here can pass the word. Media respond to buzz – if not to a critical story thumping them on the forehead.

Sudan Revolts!

The front line of Sudan’s long-overdue revolution is finally forming up.  Students and women are leading the protests in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The trigger has been the Khartoum government’s removal of fuel subsidies, the 30% inflation rate and the precipitous drop in foreign reserves. Of course, this affects the poor most disastrously. And pretty much everyone except the government and cronies are poor.

For more than a generation, the Khartoum regime has made a mockery of the notion of governance, targeting the “undesirables” that comprise the majority non-Arab, black African population. They have been responsible for the deaths of millions of women and children, for the pillaging of their homes, livelihoods and culture. For an epidemic or rape. The people of Darfur continue to endure attacks even as millions remain, after 8-9 years, trapped in “temporary” camps that have denied them their dignity and their future.

The last year has seen the renewal of the government’s scorched-earth strategy in the Nuba Mountains. More that 100,000 Sudanese have fled the bombing and shelling of villages and towns in the border states, to gather in undersupplied camps on the South Sudan side of the unstable border. The UN’s urgent pleas for funding to begin assisting this new refugee population – reduced to eating tree bark and leaves, their children malnourished beyond the “emergency threshold” ­– have fallen on nearly deaf ears in the international community. The country is in free-fall.

Imagine: another genocide and again nobody is coming with substantive help.

It’s time to support the Sudanese who are standing up to – and ejecting – the criminal enterprise that masquerades as their government.

There is no clear popular leader to assume command. But perhaps clearing out the toxins will make space for better leaders to emerge. I’m being hopeful.

Support the new Revolution!  #SudanRevolts on Twitter.

Don’t bother with your Congressional representatives. They’ve been hobbled for years. Go to your media. Get out the word.