Issue No.1168, 10 October, 2013      09-10-2013 02:30PM ET

Sudan’s protests pick up pace

The force of Sudan’s current protest movement, spreading despite a government blackout, is such that the days of Omar Al-Bashir in power are surely numbered, writes Asmaa El-Husseini

Sudan’s protests pick up pace
Demonstrators take to the streets of Khartoum
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In their third week, Sudanese protests are still going strong despite the media blackout by the regime and its desperate attempt to quell the uprising.
The protests remain peaceful so far, and although they lack clear leadership, they are posing a serious challenge to the regime. Nearly 210 people died in the first 10 days of protests, and many more were injured, according to Amnesty International.
Many Sudanese hope that the protests, which started 23 September, will hasten the end of Omar Al-Bashir’s regime. Since Al-Bashir acceded to power by means of a military coup in 1989, he has presided over an increasingly divided nation, with troubles in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, and with the secession of what is now South Sudan.
Al-Bashir’s self-styled Islamist rule has spread poverty and ethnic tensions, turned Sudan into a pariah state, and brought the country to the edge of bankruptcy.
By stripping the regime of any veneer of legitimacy, the protesters hope to hasten its downfall. With many Arab countries already distancing themselves from Sudan, although the Qataris recently awarded the regime $1 billion in loans, persistent challenge by peaceful demonstrators may determine the regime’s chances of survival.
For years now, Al-Bashir’s regime has been able to hold on to power only through a barrage of oppression, involving intimidation of opponents, mock trials of critics, detention of dissenters and bribery of close associates. The price for the general public has been tremendous, with increasing poverty, growing international isolation and immense bloodshed.
Sudan has had its share of tyrants in the past, but the country invariably rose up against them in the end. In October 1964, the Sudanese brought down the government of Ibrahim Abbud, and in April 1985 they overthrew Gaafar Al-Nimeiri. The protesters who took to the streets in various Sudanese cities in recent weeks hope to trigger a similar change.
The youthful generation that is leading the protests is determined to have its voice heard, and they already have their rallying cry. The martyrs who fell in recent days are known by name. Young men such as Salah Sanhouri or Hozaa, who gave their lives to the country in recent clashes with the police, were all born under the current regime. They were born in a country that has no room for political dissent and doesn’t allow freedom of expression, and yet they didn’t think twice about challenging one of the world’s most rigid dictatorships. With nothing but firm beliefs and bare hands, they are taking on one of the bloodiest police states ever to have existed.
There is a whiff of the Arab Spring coming over Sudan, with hopes for better life mixed with social media rallying techniques, with live shots of police brutality instantly going on the Internet. A new generation, armed with determination and digital technology, is standing face to face with an aging regime that has survived so far through deception, heavy-handedness and disrespect for human life.
The protests came out of the blue, like a volcano erupting with no warning signs. Everyone was taken by surprise — government as well as the opposition. The young men who took to the streets are determined to see this thing through, and they have already put opposition leaders on notice, telling them that halfway deals with the regime are out of the question.
Signs of fracture are already showing in the ranks of Al-Bashir’s coterie. The protests are tearing through the fabric of the Islamist movement to which it belongs, and even the ruling National Congress Party is exhibiting signs of dissension.
Perhaps for their own safety, or out of conviction, many of the regime’s supporters are distancing themselves from the regime’s crimes. And the loyal circle around Al-Bashir is getting smaller by the day.
It is not yet clear how all of this will play out, however. One possibility is that a palace coup will take place, with some of Al-Bashir’s associates turning against his authority and siding with the revolution.
A few months ago, this was about to happen, when Salah Qush, former intelligence chief, staged a failed coup against the regime.
There is also news of widespread discontent within the army, which means that Qush’s attempt to seize power may not be the last.
The Sudanese are hoping that this recent wave of protests would bring about the change they have been long looking for. It is clear for many that Sudan will not undergo any serious reform until Al-Bashir is removed from power.
With protests spreading around the country like wildfire, the change many in Sudan have been willing may be at hand.

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