With the country at boiling point, and protests spreading, Asmaa El-Husseini
charts scenarios for the period ahead in Sudan
28 June - 4 July 2012
Since 16 June, demonstrations continue in Khartoum over price hikes and the
elimination of fuel subsidies and have expanded beyond the university
students who triggered the protests. Demonstrations have also spread to
other regions and states in Sudan that have broken the fear and silence
barriers and overturned many of the fundamentals of Sudan's political scene.
The three-way equilibrium between the ruling party, which ignored other
political forces, even deriding them, sagging opposition parties incapable
of action or influence, and armed groups on the peripheries of the country
in the east, west and south, has been broken.
This spontaneous popular movement that was triggered by the people's
discontent with economic policies that have caused them endless suffering is
now raising its voice with: "The people demand the overthrow of the regime,"
inspired by Arab Spring revolutions as well as Sudan's own rich heritage of
Sudan was a pioneer in the Arab region and on the African continent, and
bore witness to the first two uprisings in the region, in October 1964 and
April 1985, which toppled two former presidents, Ibrahim Abboud and Jaafar
Today, Sudan's security forces confront protests with excessive brutality
and violence, using rubber bullets and live ammunition, as well as arrests,
beatings, pursuits, shutting down newspapers and preventing journalists from
doing their job. Eyewitnesses also report that there are armed men in
civilian clothes, which they are calling "thugs", like the ones active in
It is impossible to predict the fate of these protests that have rocked
Sudan's political scene, the ruling party and both the political and armed
Sudanese opposition. It is also unknown if the regime in Sudan will continue
its denial, contradictions, confusion and brutality towards the people's
movement that is making legitimate demands.
The regime that has been in power for 23 years and has a strong grip on all
aspects of political life in Sudan. It has infiltrated all Sudanese parties
and forces, even armed and youth movements.
For the regime, it is a matter of life or death, because of pressing factors
on the domestic and international fronts. These include proceedings at the
International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir
and the leaders of his party. Al-Bashir came out recently not to mollify
protesters, but to describe them as a "bunch of hypocrites", saying his
government will not reverse its decision to eliminate subsidies.
Al-Bashir and his party could respond to these protests and attempt to
genuinely resolve Sudan's problems and change. It has already applied
austerity measures to the government. However, even this step has not left
an impression on the Sudanese. Many feel it is too little, too late. Others
are demanding root and branch reform, while some circles believe there is no
solution but to remove the regime and hand over power to the armed forces or
a transitional government after the country's unity was torn apart and the
remainder is at risk if the regime continues in power applying its arbitrary
The third scenario, which is more difficult, is that armed groups on the
periphery of Sudan's territories could become involved in the crisis as
peaceful protests continue. This, however, would give the government
justification to step in and thwart protests even more. Alternatively,
peaceful demonstrations could evolve into civil war driven by the large
volume of weapons in the hands of Sudanese citizens, as well as hostilities
among different groups. This would mean that the Arab Spring would become a
cold autumn, and suffering would continue in a country that has for a long
time endured the ravages of war and destruction.
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Received on Mon Jul 02 2012 - 18:33:28 EDT