- Omar al-Bashir - South Sudan - Sudan
Khartoum braces for weekend protests
Since June 16, protests against the regime of President Omar el-Bashir have intensified in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Despite a brutal security crackdown, demonstrators are preparing to take to the streets again this weekend.
Sudanese security forces began a crackdown on Friday at the beginning of a weekend of anticipated protests in the capital Khartoum.
Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of peaceful protesters in Khartoum’s Hijra Square near the opposition Umma Party headquarters.
The protests follow two weeks of violent anti-regime demonstrations sparked by rampant inflation and the removal of fuel subsidies.
Last weekend riot police using tear gas arrested scores of demonstrators protesting outside Khartoum University, which has been a hub of political discontent for decades and was the epicentre of the uprising that saw Bashir himself seize power in 1964.
Saturday, June 30 is the anniversary of that coup; opposition parties and student groups have called for mass demonstrations against Bashir’s government.
The students’ anger reflects growing popular resentment fuelled by rampant price inflation, tax increases and cuts to subsidies, notably on fuel, which is increasingly scarce following a festering conflict with South Sudan, who now controls the vast majority of the once-united country’s oil resources.
Sudan’s officials say they had no choice but to cut fuel subsidies, but protesters fear the measure will lead to further price inflation, which has already been felt across the country. In May, food prices rose by 30%.
In Khartoum, local media has been severely restricted, while a foreign correspondent from Bloomberg news agency was expelled from the country because of her coverage of the protests.
Despite the security crackdown, residents of the capital are more defiant of the regime than they have ever been before, according to FRANCE 24’s correspondents there. The families of the students arrested in last week’s protest said they would be joining protests this weekend.
“If something happens to our children we, the families, will take care of those responsible. We'll bring justice ourselves,” the mother of one student who remained in custody told FRANCE 24.
No Arab Spring
Popular anger against the government has drawn comparisons to last year’s Arab Spring revolts, which overthrew dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
Sudan expert Adjoa Anymadu, a researcher at London-based Chatham House, said that despite the unprecedented nature of recent demonstrations against the regime, protests in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities are unlikely to unseat Bashir, who is wanted under an ICC arrest warrant.
“There were some protests at the time of the Arab Spring and there was a fierce crackdown back then,” she told FRANCE 24. “And the fact that they have re-emerged is significant. But this is no repeat of the Arab Spring.”
According to Anymadu, the protests have brought the country’s economic plight and its internal conflicts, especially against its own citizens in the Nuba Mountains, under the international spotlight, and have weakened the regime’s reputation for strength and unity.
“But Bashir is not really under threat,” the researcher said. “His NCP party is adept at dealing with opposition and manipulating the situation to its own ends. The NCP is not a one-man show, and if there is going to be any threat to Bashir himself, it can only come from the higher echelons of his own party.”