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Sudan: a revolution in the making?

The community in Sudan is a close one: everybody already knows someone who has died during the protests. This is getting personal.

To describe what’s happening in Sudan as revolution to overthrow the regime is an exaggeration: but to say that these are protests against lifting fuel subsidies is a serious understatement.

Waves of popular protests increasing in popularity and scope have been taking place across Sudan since the President’s speech announcing lifting fuel subsidies on Sunday. So far protests have taken place in Khartoum, Medani, Port Sudan, Kassala, Gedarif and Niyala.

Immediately after the President’s speech on September 22, fuel prices almost doubled. Petrol prices went from 12 to 21SDG per gallon and a cylinder of cooking gas went from 15 to 25SDG. While the hike in fuel prices may have sparked the protests, the picture is bigger than that. Food prices have steadily risen since the secession and were further inflated by 50% this year in a country where half the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day.
Sudan suffers from poverty, under and unemployment, in addition to oppression, nepotism, corruption, bad governance and a degenerate and politicized judiciary and military. The situation is exacerbated by official statements calling for a continued rise in prices with barely any justification; the president’s speeches have been nothing short of ridiculous and patronising talk about how the current regime introduced pizza and hotdogs mixed with ultimatums: either subsidies are removed or the nations is doomed to economic collapse.

Sudan barely produces anything to feed its 32 million. The government prides itself on their gold exports, but globally gold prices have been going down. With a public debt exceeding 70% of the GDP, while removal of subsidies could help increase government income, as an isolated act it is ill-advised. Yousif Elfadil, activist and economist explains: “Subsidy removal must be accompanied with requisite safety net measures to protect the poorest and should be part of a comprehensive fiscal reform package, including crucially on the expenditure side.” Implementing the package selectively only serves to worsen the situation.

But the ruling party is not interested in reform as it relies on its current expenditure to maintain power and continues instead to tax the Sudanese citizen to raise revenue to sustain their corrupt expenditure; the government spends more on security and military (pensions, social services, weapon, etc) than on education and health in order to buy loyalty, kill opposition and stay in power.

Could the situation evolve to a fully-fledged revolution against the regime? It’s very possible. Protests are not led, mobilized or coordinated by any political parties. The majority of protests have been youth and neighbourhood-led. So the government cannot buy in the opposition’s silence any more. Protests are not called for on social media for the government to know details about timing and location, to spread rumours or otherwise jeopardise the protests. The Government is resorting to extreme retaliatory violence; at least 100 people have been confirmed dead by eyewitnesses during the first 3 days of these protests.

The medical doctors’ union confirms in their report that most of the dead and injured have been shot in the head and the chest. Eyewitnesses also confirm the use of live ammunition and targeted shooting of protesters, which is creating mayhem, deep resentment, and even more protests after neighborhood funerals. The community in Sudan is a close one: everybody already knows someone who has died during the protests. This is getting personal.

Protests were triggered by lifting fuel subsidies which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But it’s not clear how things are going to end. Absence of clear leadership causes a lack of clear vision beyond rejection of these measures on fuel. Today will be a critical day as mass protests and violence are expected.

Youth activists are taking over the situation, after having given up on senile and hopeless opposition leaders who have let the nation down, not rising to the occasion. The situation is very volatile, people are outraged and the government is only using ruthless brutality and denial in response. The streets of Khartoum are bleak this morning; gas stations are mostly closed, barely anyone on the streets and silence has never been so loud.

About the author

Asmara is an economist, volunteer & social activist. She works in the development sector in Sudan with a focus on Sudanese youth. She is an active member in a number of youth social initiatives and occasionally writes in an anonymous blog.


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