Protests in parts of Sudan went on for the fifth day in a row on December 23rd. People are protesting the rising costs of bread and fuel.
The protests began on December 19th, after government increased prices of a loaf of bred from one Sudanese pound to three (from approximately $0.02 to $0.06), causing an uproar against price rises, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.
The cost of some commodities has more than doubled, inflation is running at close to 70 percent and the pound has plunged in value. There have been shortages of bread across several cities, including Khartoum.
Doctors are also set to go on strike on December 24th in the first of a series of work stoppages, announced by an umbrella coalition of professional unions.
Sara Abdelgalil, president of the Sudan Doctors’ Union in the UK, said Sudan is headed for a total shutdown if there’s no change in leadership, calling the recent protests “the tip of the iceberg.”
“I don’t think people on the streets are protesting just because of fuel and bread. They are protesting because there is an overall failure of the whole system,” she said
“For the medical sector, there is complete destruction for the infrastructure, for the access of health services, for the cost of treatment, for the absence of life-saving medication, so the health sector is similar to education and other sectors in Sudan where there is an overall failure from the current government, therefore they have to step down and hand over the power to a government that can lead and can provide a better life for the people of Sudan.”
There have also been calls by a number of independent trade and professional unions for a general strike on December 26th.
Protesters are mainly calling for the resignation of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He has been in the leader’s seat for 29 years.
“Fuel and bread shortages may have triggered protests across the country, but other factors now seem to be helping to keep them going,” Hiba Morgan, an Al Jazeera correspondent said, reporting from Khartoum. “People seem to be frustrated not just by the economic crisis, but by the way the country is being run and they want to see change.”
On December 21st, Sudan deployed troops to the capital Khartoum and other cities after the deaths of demonstrators in clashes with riot police.
On December 20th, protesters torched the headquarters of President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party in Atbara and set fire to NCP offices in two other locations.
So far, according to government sources at least 8 people have died during the protests, while opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi has said that “22 people were martyred and several others wounded,” during the protests. He said that on December 22nd.
Amnesty international called for an immediate investigation into the killings of protesters.
“Since 14 December, tens of thousands of people have been taking part in protests in different parts of the country, including in Wad Madani, Port Sudan, Gebeit, Al-Qadarif, Atbara, Berber, Dongla, Karima, Al-Damazin, Al Obeid, Al Fasher, Khartoum and Omdurman,” AI reported.
“On Wednesday (December 19th) and Thursday (December 20th) this week, security officers shot at protesters to disperse them killing six people in Al Qadarif, one in Berber and two in Karima. Yesterday, the government has also shut down the internet in yet another attempt to stop the protests,” the report continued.
On December 22nd, Reuters reported that Sudanese authorities arrested 14 leaders of an opposition coalition, a spokesman of the group said.
“We demand their immediate release, and their arrest is an attempt by the regime to stop the street movements,” Sadiq Youssef said.
Faisal Hassan Ibrahim, an assistant to Bashir and deputy head of the ruling party, said the protests were “coordinated and organized” and that two of those killed in demonstrations in the city of al-Qadarif were from the armed forces.
“Now the Sudanese armed forces are guarding strategic locations in all Sudanese regions,” he added.
“This is the biggest urban challenge to face Bashir’s government since it came to power, the scale of the protests is unprecedented,” Mohammed Osman, an independent analyst, by phone from the capital Khartoum, was cited by the Financial Times. “It is very hard to see how the regime can survive this wave unscathed.”
In October 2018, Sudan sharply devalued its currency from 29 pounds to an USD to 47.5, after a body of banks and money changers set the country’s exchange rate. The economic crisis is one of the biggest tests faced by al-Bashir, who took power in a coup in 1989.
Earlier, in January 2018, Sudanese people went to the streets to protest price hikes.
It is also interesting that the Sudanese president on December 16th became the first Arab leader to break the diplomatic blockade on Syria and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Whether the protests are related to the meeting comes down to speculation.