” Our country is experiencing a situation difficult and complicated. The most difficult phase of its history. “Omar el-Bashir, he finally took the measure of the slump in which is plunged his country ? This sentence, pronounced after the dismissal of his government on 22 February last, summarizes the economic situation that prevails at present in the Sudan. And strangles every day hundreds of millions of people. The increase in the price of bread, which was decided in December and eventually push the population in the street. For the past three months, the rallies, the marches and the demonstrations continue, and are fed to a challenge of magnitude.
A situation that has an air of déjà vu for the protesters. In 2013 already, the price rise had been the origin of many of the events, repressed in the blood : 200 people have been killed, according to Amnesty International. The challenge now – which initially seems to be based on the same claims – is it different ? This time, the regime can be shaken ? Clément Deshayes, a doctoral student at the university of Paris 8 and a researcher at the think tank Noria Research, gives his answers to the Point Africa.
The Point Africa : The government’s decision to triple the price of bread has been the spark for the protest…
Clément Deshayes : It is indeed this decision which puts the fire to the powder. It has been applied to Atbara, a city at once a stronghold of the communist Party from its labor history and radical islamists. But the reasons for the anger of the Sudanese are more profound, and affect of categories of different population, in several regions of the country. In Gedaref, the second largest city in Sudan, the population suffers, for example the crisis of agricultural production. In Khartoum, people are especially exasperated shortages of cash in atms. They may not withdraw their salaries. This situation affects the Sudanese employees, therefore from the middle class. There are so many problems in different places that are accumulated, and were emboldened to revolt. It should also be noted that the price of bread had already doubled in January last year, and the decision had at the time, there are also triggered events. The December has been increasing too.
The pending dispute, therefore, all social classes ?
in The beginning, yes. More now. This is not to say that certain segments of the population no longer support the movement, but to mobilize it for months, go demonstrate in several times a week… it takes to have resources. Thing that the poorer classes can’t afford. It is for this reason that the composition of the protests has changed in three months. We went from “the revolt of the souk” to the middle class, student, centralized in Khartoum.
#القضارف، الموكب يصل إلى غايته والثوار الآن أمام المجلس التشريعي والهتاف (حرية سلام وعدالة، والثورة خيار الشعب) وقوات الأمن تطلق الغاز المسيل للدموع بغزارة.#مدن_السودان_تنتفض #موكب_الشهداء pic.twitter.com/eZhhgvPdq4
— Sudan Change Now (@Sudanchangenow) January 8, 2019
The challenge today is different from that of 2013 ?
today, the regime is more hard-pressed economically. There is a real risk of collapse of the State. It has been three months that the authorities are trying to recover the money a bit everywhere, without success. The loan to $ 300 million of the arab League will not stand for a long time. In 2013, the austerity measures undertaken by the State, which had made come down to the Sudanese in the street. Six years later, it is the general state of the economy, which form the challenge. People are struggling to survive. It sends all day a person of the family to queue up at the bank to try to recover a few tickets. The fuel shortages prevent the Sudanese to go to work. The magnitude of the problem is considerable.
These protesters, do they have leaders ? The Association of professional sudanese (APS), which organizes the marches, is the spearhead of the movement ?
The revolt is structured on two levels. The protests of the neighborhoods, localized, and have nothing to do with the APS, since these groups are formed in events of old. The general calls for the event, launched two to three times per week, are initiated by the APS. The two overlap. People follow mostly the calls of the Association and support its action. But you should know that the PSA is an organization made up of professionals, skilled, such as doctors, lawyers, and journalists. They therefore represent a very small part of the Sudanese. Even if the popular classes in support of their calls, their links with the APS are very stretched. The direct interactions are marginal. The APS is trying since January to build links with other organizations, such as the revolutionary committees of districts, to coordinate the protest. If the PSA today has taken the leadership of the mobilization, he lacks a presence on the ground.
What are the other criteria that may interfere with the action of the APS ?
The severe repression practiced against opponents dessert necessarily his field of action. The Sudan is a country where the regime does not hesitate to use force, as with the ” ghost houses “, these ghost houses where activists arrested by the authorities are locked in and tortured. These uses, which have been the victims of many political activists, have weakened the potential protest groups. Since December, several leaders of the APS have been arrested, others went underground. But the fear of being arrested for the protesters, if it still exists, is less. The system of denunciation which already existed, based on local informants, no longer works very well : these informants were no longer being paid, they no longer make back their information. And in neighborhoods with a majority of opponents, they were discovered and taken to a party.
In a system where the possibility of being arrested remains important, how do the leaders of the protests to sustain the movement ?
Thanks to social networks. The activists were aware of living in a dictatorship-old thirty years, and they have therefore learned how to communicate otherwise. Some, thanks to their professional training, have learned to use tools, secure computing, and have been able to coordinate their actions with others. Very quickly, they have set up their website, a mobile app and reported their action to the outside of the country. These modules are based abroad, but accessible from the Sudan. The Sudan has an Internet penetration rate of 28 % and therefore, the entire population does not have access to the information of the APS. This is not a coincidence if the events are composed today primarily of the middle classes who, they, have access to these tools.
What is the attitude of the regime against these tools of protest of a new kind ?
a Few weeks after the start of the markets, the authorities have cut off the social networks, as they had done during the protests in 2013. At the time, it had been effective, since it is the network which had been suspended. But ever since, people have learned to override these cuts through the VPN. It has not posed a problem, for example, to the activists based in the major cities. In contrast, in the more remote areas of the country, the coordination between the movements was logically more difficult. It is for this reason that we cannot find majority of the videos of the protests in Khartoum after the first week of the challenge.
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