By Sokari Ekine
The renewed Sudan uprising whose genesis can be traced back to December 2010 is now nearly two weeks old. The latest protests began when a small group of women students from the University of Khartoum held a demonstration in response to increases in transport and food prices. [ ]http://bit.ly/KNvzJk] Women of Sudan have been involved in previous protests such as those which took place in September 2010 and March 201. In both cases women were protesting against violence against women.
The protests have now moved to include other universities and the general public calling for regime change in Sudan. The protests come at a time of economic crisis for Sudan. Years of fighting wars in western and southern regions- Darfur, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. [http://bit.ly/MAYbRA] In the east, a 2006 peace deal signed with the Eastern Front [Kassala- ]http://bit.ly/MAZD6u] remains precarious and the dispute with South Sudan over oil, pipelines and land remain. The picture is a beleaguered Khartoum government which in addition to wars and insurgency on it’s borders is now having to fight an internal uprising with it’s own people.
The government has predictably responded with tear gas, beatings and arrests and has particularly targeted bloggers and foreign journalists. Usamah Mohammed @simsimt [http://bit.ly/MB0XpX], Karima Fath Al-Rahman [http://bit.ly/MTQIyW] and a prominent activist Magdi Akasha of the youth movement, have all been arrested. [ http://bit.ly/LBzCGH ]Egyptian correspondent for the Bloomberg News, Salma Elwardany @S_Elwardany was detained for five hours and later deported. Maha El-Sanosi was taken from her house in the middle of the night together with her phone and laptop. She was later released but has to report to the NISS. Mohamed Hassan Alim was also taken from his house and remains in custody.
As to why the protests are taking place at this time, blogger Sudanese Thinker, AMIR AHMAD NASR writes [http://bit.ly/LNrkrZ]
“As the fear barrier crumbles, Sudanese have a chance to topple Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) cronies — and to build a better future for their country. It is important to understand why Sudanese would risk their lives to oppose Bashir. The narratives peddled by some commentators about the country’s recent conflicts — that they are between “Arabs versus Africans,” or “Muslims versus Christians” — are not only unhelpful, they are wrong. These characterizations have neither benefited the international community nor the diverse citizens of Sudan — including the Arabs and Afro-Arabs of the North who felt alienated by it, and who have also been violently oppressed for decades.”
Nasar, like other many other Sudanese bloggers and tweeters, insists the present protests are different from those in the past as they include the wider population and are taking place beyond the capital, Khartoum. Moze Ali [Thoughts of his Moezness [ http://bit.ly/MwELig ] points out that the protests are different because now people are calling for regime change rather than just opposition to the government’s austerity measures.
“The common misconception is that the protests are against the austerity plan, they’re not. The protesters are calling for the fall of the regime. They might have been sparked by the austerity plan, but they have been ongoing for 10 days now and it doesn’t seem that they will stop any time soon. The students, and citizens who eventually joined, want regime change for very simple and understandable reasons. The education and health systems in Sudan are virtually nonexistent. There’s no infrastructure, no legal system, no economic plan of any sort, and last but not least, no freedom of expression. For all intents and purposes, Sudan is a failed state; statistically, socially, economically, financially, and any everything else.”
Yousif Elmahdi @Usiful_ME is defiant as the protests slow down:
“So things have calmed down recently, so what? This only ends when we say it does, & that’s with the regime gone. Nothing less…”
Referring to the planned mass protests on 30 June he writes that this needs to be huge and there is no turning back now. In an earlier piece he addresses the question: “Sudan, Are We a Failed Nation?” [http://bit.ly/LgySnF] The short answer is yes…
“Sudan is a failed state. Its social, political, and economic shortcomings render it third on Foreign Policy’s index. Basic freedoms are minimal; women are oppressed and activists, journalists and politicians arrested under a complicit rule of law. Poverty, estimated at 46.5% overall and 57.6% in rural areas, grows more acute. Sudan’s Human Development Index is lowest of all MENA countries – 169 of 187 overall. With conflicts in every corner of the country, the South may not be the last to secede. Corruption is so pervasive (sixth worst Corruption Perception Index) that Sudan would be a middle-income country had it implemented an amnesty similar to that announced in South Sudan. Instead, we remain stratified in the event horizon of an economic meltdown.”
He comments on the failures of previous uprisings which he attributes to a “helplessness” and a “fear induced passiveness often confused with apathy”.
In this situation, the Sudanese like people in other parts of the continent for example Nigeria, achieving change is too daunting and so we settle for less. Stumbling and mumbling along with the status quo until a time comes when this is no longer possible. Every time there is an uprising whether it’s Sudan, Nigeria or Cameroon people become less fearful and more determined and are able to sustain opposition for longer periods of time. This may not be THE uprising that will remove Omar Bashir but it is one on a continuum, a defining moment in the struggle that will eventually see him go the way of his neighbours to the north.
Mohammed Morsi is now the president of Egypt but questions remain on how much worth the position has and for how long will he remain. As Sharif Kouddous shows, what was supposed to be the end of the transitionary military rule, Egypt has instead become a military dictatorship with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] has ‘assumed near-full control of all the key branches of the state”. [http://bit.ly/Mx0eaI]
“Minutes after polls closed Sunday evening in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election, which pitted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister, the SCAF issued a set of constitutional amendments that strip the incoming president of almost all significant powers and cement military authority over the post-Mubarak era. The move by the ruling generals came days after the dissolution of the popularly elected parliament by a court packed with Mubarak-appointed judges, as well as a decree by the Minister of Justice reintroducing elements of martial law to the country by granting the military broad powers to arrest and detain civilians.”
Following an increase in sexual violence [http://bit.ly/Mx6WO2] Egyptian women will be holding another demonstration in Tahir Square. The demonstration is being organised by the Sexual Harrassment Action Group [SHAG – ]http://on.fb.me/M5aObw] The website Nazra.org has published testimonies from women who have experienced sexual violence. It is additionally disturbing that Tahrir Square – the site of revolutionary protests has become a ‘war zone of harassment”.
“Although sexual violence towards women is a problem not necessarily with a focal point, in recent weeks, the iconic Tahrir Square has become an almost war-zone for harassment, Egyptian and foreign women have told Bikyamasr.com.
“I was pushing through and as the men were praying in the square, I had my butt and chest grabbed repeatedly by people,” said one Egyptian woman, who asked that her identity not be revealed.
She told Bikyamasr.com that “I was in shock, because the Islamists were in the square, but I guess it doesn’t matter who is protesting, women will be attacked.”
Other women, including foreign journalists, told Bikyamasr.com that they had been repeatedly groped on the streets near and inside Tahrir Square. For many, they said they will not return to the square during the evening in fear of being sexually assaulted.” [ Bikyamasr – http://bit.ly/LQ92I8 ]
Many of the testimonies speak to organised mob attacks of sexual assault which many see as being motivated by a desire to “punish women and keep them at home”. There is also the very real possibility that the harassment is being carried out by SCAF paid thugs to terrorise women and stop them from going to the square and the surrounding streets.
Whilst Al Jazeera was seen as a ‘friend’ to Tunisian, Libyan and Egyptians this has not been the case in Sudan. Both Al Jazeera [English and Arabic] and AJ Stream have been accused of supporting the Bashir regime by a number of Sudanese tweeters namely:
@ Arch_Asaad, @Am_e89 and @Tahir3T.
@Tahir3T Please keep mentioning @SkyNewsArabia_B @Alarabiya &@france24_ar for everything & Skip @Ajarabic @AJenglish#SudanRevolts #السودان_ينتفض
@Arch_Asaad So @AJStream decided NOW to ask me to Skype w/ them telling them what happened? I rather do it with another Media does not protect a Tyrant
Dear @AJStream, you can refer to @amnesty but the loop will bring you right back to the source (us). Please stop patronizing us.
Sarah Mohamed Ali @Sarorah @TilalAbubakr @simsimt @Arch_Asaad It’s all about political orientations.. Aj are clearly one of the government tools to report ppl to NISS
The reasons behind the above comments are not clear beyond what is self-evident, that is, they have been betrayed in some way. Finally for those who claim the Sudan uprising is disorganised and without a demand led focus, Girifna’s published demands from February 2011 are worth repeating. [http://www.girifna.com/blog-girifna/demands ]
“We demand the resignation of the National Congress Party (NCP) government, to be replaced by a transitional government. This transitional government should represent all geographical regions of Sudan, its civil society agencies, youth and women. We expect the transitional government to achieve the following:
1- Conduct national elections within a time-frame that is no longer than two years.
2- Eliminate all public order laws and laws restricting freedoms.
3- Eliminate all increases imposed by the NCP on the prices of basic consumption goods such as fuel, sugar and foodstuff. And take action to fight poverty and improve living conditions.
4- Release all political prisoners and ensure freedom of political participation and freedom of the press.
5- Put a stop to the use of religion to terrorize political opponents as well as stop all atonement campaigns and accusations of treason.
6- Recreate the national forces, police, security and public service agencies to ensure they serve national interests and are professional, objective, neutral and transparent.
7- Investigate all violations against human rights and torture and bring those responsible to trial.
8- Investigate all crimes of corruption and illegal accumulation of wealth, as well as the looting of public wealth. In addition, put to trial all those accused of corrupt practices and pursue the recovery of what they stole from the country’s resources and wealth.
9- Reevaluation of Sudanese judicial personnels and the immediate formation of transparent courts of appeals to accept and handle appeals of cases ruled by the Sudanese judicial system since June 30 1989. These courts have the legitimacy to refute a previous ruling and compensate individuals or groups.
10- Resolve the crisis in Darfur and respond to all the demands of the people of Darfur, as well as put to trial those who have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
11- Stop the war on our people of South Kurdufan, Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains.
12- Ensure the freedom of mobility, residency, work and ownership to South Sudanese residing in Sudan.
13- Conduct a national conference to find a mechanism to govern Sudan and find solutions to the current national crisis.
14- Put an end to the ethnic monopoly over power and permit the participation of all marginalized peoples.
15- Allow the active participation of youth in political decisions and give youth the opportunity to assume leadership positions within their parties.
16- Adopt a democratic mechanism to draft and approve a national constitution that codifies these demands for freedom, social justice and equity into law.