Sudan in Egypt’s Shadow
Sudan protests express anger at economic measures
Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has ruled the country since 1989, when he came to power through a military coup as the head of the National Congress Party. It is said that he has ruled with an iron fist; he is currently facing two international arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity against non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur. In 1993, Bashir increased his powers by appointing himself president and by disbanding the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation, along with all other rival political parties.
The protests against Bashir and his economic policies began on 16 June and were initially led largely by students and political activists at the University of Khartoum. As the week progressed, the students were joined by a larger segment of the capital’s population. Reports suggest that the number of protestors has increased, so that by Sunday, 24 June there were two groups of about 100 protestors in two areas of Khartoum. Police have managed to crack down on the protestors quickly and forcefully. For instance, in El-Obeid, the capital of the North Kordofan state, a protest calling for the downfall of the regime involving approximately 100 students from the area’s university was countered by the police using tear gas and batons. Nonetheless, rival opposition parties are capitalising on the unrest and joining in the calls for the ousting of Bashir’s regime. A change in regime would most likely garner much attention and please the international community due to the arrest warrants issued for Bashir by the International Criminal Court. Though the protests have lasted for a week, however, they still remain relatively small in scale and only last for short periods of time.
Nevertheless, some people believe the protests are being inspired by the Arab uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Libya, and are using the economic problems to expand into a movement to end the 23-year rule of President Bashad. There is doubt if the Sudanese uprisings actually have the same sort of momentum as other uprisings in the region. The Arab Spring movements typically espoused the principles of democracy and freedom from the start, and has thus far have arisen from a perceived or real threat to what are considered basic human rights. In contrast, the situation in Sudan seems to have been sparked by economic grievances and is spreading to encapsulate the wider aims of the Arab Spring. It seems to some that the protestors are opportunistically using world events to give their concerns more prominence and capitalise on the momentum of, and attention on, the Arab Spring to achieve their goals. In this view, the uprisings should not in fact be conflated with the same set of values as the other Arab uprisings. As Bashir was noted saying, “[The protestors] said economic measures were a chance for the Arab Spring, but we’ve already had the Arab Spring a number of times.”
There are some people who see the economic policies of President Bashir’s government as a chance to set straight an economy that needed stabilising, and who have accepted the current setbacks in exchange for longer-term stability. This means the protests and the opposition might not acquire the full support of the state, which likely sees a movement similar to the Arab Spring as a further detriment to an already broken economy.