Sudan protests: an on the ground report
05 July 2012: A report from Khartoum, Sudan where protests against the governments proposed austerity measures have provoked a violent crackdown from security services.
The cities of el Obeidh, Omdurman el Thowrah, Um Dwanban, Medani, Kosti and Port Sudan, some of which joined the protests recently, are also continuing to protest. It is evident that the regime may not last for long if the flow of demonstrations continues.
In a visit to the Libyan market, a district known for the density of its western Sudanese (Darfur and Kordofan) population, I had expected the police ‘standby’ presence vastly increased. But to my surprise I found reluctant police not even in their full anti-riot gear. A female restaurant owner told me that yesterday a demonstration went around the market and no police or security responded to the protestors until they dispersed by their own will.
It looks like the strongest arm of the government, which uses maximum force to respond to protests, is in the universities. Two truck-loads of policemen still guard the Omdurman Ahlia University. Police have begun to evacuate the markets in the early evenings, as people try to avoid the police by demonstrating in the evenings when most police will be off duty.
A bureau to monitor violations to the rights of demonstrators was set up and it was reported that the police are using live bullets to respond to the protesters.
In his first statement after the beginning of events President al-Bashir said the protesters are foreigners (the words he used, shuzzaz aafag, mean ‘foreigner’ or ‘vagabond’) and that “we could have brought our Mujahideen to deal with them”. In a program on government-run Blue Nile TV, supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) described protesters as arsonists who want to steal and plunder and that they do not represent the people of Sudan.
Economic conditions get worse by the day and the value of the Sudanese pound against the dollar deteriorates. Sugar has started to disappear from markets with the approach of Ramadan (when it is heavily consumed). There is not any control on the market and sellers do whatever they want with prices. While an increase in diesel fuel prices is expected to hand the last blow to the farming sector.
The intensity of demonstrations is expected to increase in the coming days, especially as new towns join and escalation the situation. It is also worth mentioning that women too have been actively participating in these protests. There are some areas where women have led demonstrations, for example Ombadah el Sabeel, and the initial spark that started student demonstrations at the University of Khartoum was ignited by female students.
There are reports of splits within the NCP. People liken Bashir - calling the protestors “germs” - with Qadafi’s initial reaction to protests in Libya when he labelled protestors “rats”.
It is noted that the regime may be losing some of its Arab ‘friends’ as people point to the fact that the media in Qatar and Saudi Arabia have started publishing on the current protests – something they did not do in the past.