Sudan rocked by anti-government protests reminiscent of Arab Spring

Sudan rocked by anti-government protests reminiscent of Arab Spring

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Pharmacies in the Sudanese cities of Damir and Atbara participate in an anti-government demonstration by shuttering their doors. January 10, 2019. Courtesy: SCP
Pharmacies in the Sudanese cities of Damir and Atbara participate in an anti-government demonstration by shuttering their doors. January 10, 2019. Courtesy: SCP

It's been nearly a month since mass demonstrations broke out against Sudan. That movement isn't showing signs of weakening.

UNITED NATIONS — Anti-government protests are continuing across Sudan, as thousands demand new leadership in a country roiled by economic crisis and chronic mismanagement under 30 years of rule by President Omar al-Bashir.

“Since December 19th there have been protests on a daily basis in Sudan, not just in one city but all over Sudan.”

Michelle Gavin is a senior fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“They started as a protest against a rise in the price of bread, but they very quickly morphed into protests expressing not just dissatisfaction about the overall economic situation — which right now is characterized by runaway inflation — but really protests against the nature of the government itself. People are shouting not just about wanting bread, but wanting bread and freedom.”

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Al-Bashir hasn’t taken kindly to the protests, perhaps not surprising from a man wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for overseeing the Darfur genocide.

“Protesters have been killed and beaten. Recently, security forces went so far as to storm a hospital where injured protesters had gone, beating patients, doctors.

Bashir is now warning that Sudan could end up like Syria if demonstrations continue, but Gavin says the Sudanese public is displaying newfound wariness to Bashir’s propaganda.

“The old tricks — the state media messages that sort of in the past have been at least partially successful at keeping people away from joining social movements, aren’t finding any purchase anymore. The Sudanese have become, I think, more discerning about how to assess media messages and decide what the agenda and how much truth there really is to these reports.”

One crutch Bashir and his government can’t lean on anymore is the effect of U.S. sanctions — which were long cited as the source of Sudan’s woes.

The Trump administration dropped most American sanctions on Sudan in 2017, leaving Bashir’s government to succeed — or in this case fail — all on its own.

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