Northern Sudan protests echo those in Egypt and across the Arab world

NOTE: These protests are being staged in Arab North Sudan (Khartoum) by Northern citizens, not in the newly independent South.

Northern Sudan’s protests sparked by Egypt and Tunisia, but will they have the same effect?

By Alex Thurston – January 31, 2011

Yesterday, as official results came out showing a nearly unanimous vote among South Sudanese in favor of secession, protests occurred in Khartoum and elsewhere against the regime of President Omar al Bashir. Organizers carefully planned these protests to overlap both with the announcement of Southern secession and with the ongoing protests in Egypt. Student activists appear to be leading the protest effort. Protesters decry Bashir’s rule, economic hardship, and political oppression. The protesters, who Reuters numbered in the hundreds, met violence from police, but further protests are scheduled for today.

Reuters gives more context on Sudan’s economic situation:

Sudan is in deep economic crisis which analysts blame on government overspending and misguided policies. A bloated import bill caused foreign currency shortages and forced an effective devaluation of the Sudanese pound last year, sparking soaring inflation.

Early this month the government cut subsidies on petroleum products and key commodity sugar, triggering smaller protests throughout the north.

Discontent has been mounting for some time. On Jan. 22, a young Sudanese man set himself on fire in Omdurman in imitation of the Tunisian worker whose actions helped spark the protests in Tunisia. Looking back further in time, there were indications of significant dissent during Sudan’s presidential elections last April, as well as widespread human rights violations. And the memory of what popular outcry can achieve in Sudan also extends back further even than Bashir’s reign (he came to power in 1989). As Al Jazeera points out, “Before Tunisia’s popular revolt, Sudan was the last Arab country to overthrow a leader with popular protests, ousting Jaafar Nimeiri in 1985.”

Still, there are also signs that some segments of the population strongly support Bashir. During the elections last year, the New York Times described long lines of voters who “enthusiastically rallied behind” the president. Bashir also retains the capacity to deploy intense repression and violence against protesters. The Wall Street Journal reports that yesterday, “a group of armed students affiliated with Mr. Bashir’s ruling party roamed the campus to keep students inside the school and away from the protests.” And while the accounts of security forces and the accounts of protesters from yesterday differed, it does not sound like the police lost control of events. The public support that remains for the regime and Bashir’s willingness to use repression will be major obstacles for the protesters.

What do Sudan’s protests mean in a regional context? Obviously the protests are, in the words of their organizers, explicitly connected to events in Tunisia and Egypt. Yet, again obviously, each country is different. (North) Sudan, having essentially just lost a third of its territory, is in a moment of transition that is different from Egypt’s or Tunisia’s. Given the repercussions of Southern Sudanese secession for Sudan’s oil industry, the economic transition underway in Sudan also differs from what is happening to other economies in the region. Sudan’s international position, and Bashir’s international notoriety, also put matters there in a different light. If nothing else, Bashir is used to being an object of hatred.

Read more at Christian Science Monitor.

Call for international media coverage and action at

” We need international media coverage now! In Khartoum, many thrown in jail. University of Khartoum medical school protest turned into sit in on campus, Ahlia University also protesting, Islamiya University in chaos. Many in Haj Yousif took to the streets. Yousif & Salah Mubarak Elfadil Elmahdi & filmmaker Salah AlMur beaten and taken by security forces.”

For those on the ground please send messages to:

University of Khartoum medical school protest:

Reuters: Sudanese police clash with students in Khartoum

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