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In Sudan, the protests are not all about bread

December 24, 2018 at 06:00 am | News

Nduta Waweru

Nduta Waweru | Contributor

December 24, 2018 at 06:00 am | News

Photo: Mohamed Abubakr/Twitter

The people of Sudan have been on the streets of different towns across the country.  Today, the protests enter their sixth day, with doctors and other professionals announcing strikes over the rising cost of living. 

The protests started on December 19 after the government increased the cost of basic commodities including bread.  It has been a culmination of a cash crisis that has hit the country for a better part of the year.

However, what started as a protest over bread, cost of which tripled following the government’s move to stop funding wheat imports, has been sustained by calls for President Omar el- Bashir to step down. 

According to reports, people were calling for the end of the regime.  Videos on social media highlight protesters at a stadium calling for ‘Freedom, peace and justice.’

The government has tried to quell the protests and other dissidents in a process that has seen the death of at least 22 people, according to the official opposition.   Police brutality and violence have also been reported across the country.

As of Monday morning, several opposition leaders were arrested in connection to the protests, who have been described as ‘a cell of saboteurs who had planned to ‘acts of vandalism in the capital.’

Continued cash crisis

Sudan has been facing an economic crisis that saw the government trying to handle the increasing inflation that bogged the country. In January, the parliament passed a bill that resulted in the devaluation of the Sudanese pound and cutting of subsidies on essential goods.

By March, inflation had risen by 56 per cent, leading to mass protests that were quelled by police arrests. As of May 2018, the government shut down a number of diplomatic missions to cut costs.  And by November, some banks had limited cash withdrawals, leading to long queues at ATMs.

The crisis has been attributed to the loss of revenue following the loss of three-quarters of its oil resources after South Sudan secession in 2011. The lifting of sanctions by America in 2017 has not helped matters. 

Bashir’s End?

Omar Al-Bashir has been president of the country since 1989 when he took over in a coup d’etat.  He is accused of war crimes, following the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan that culminated into the secession of the latter in 2011.  Bashir became the first head of state to be accused of such crimes. Currently, an international arrest warrant against him is still active.

Earlier in the year, Bashir made moves to fix the economy, including dissolving the government, naming a new central bank governor and bringing in a package of reforms. These have so far not yielded the expected response resulting into protests. It would be the latest protest over increasing cost of living. The earliest of such protests took place in 2012. 

2012 photo of protests in Sudan

His response to the ongoing protests has been to effect curfews and declare a state of emergency. 

The president has gotten support from the military as well as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who expressed his keenness in the stability of the country.

Although his party plans to nominate him for the 2020 elections, questions now abound as to whether he is going to survive these protests, especially now that many public sector professionals have announced their strikes..  

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