The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The protests in Sudan

A friend in Khartoum writes:

In case you missed it in the Egypt fray, things are heating up in Khartoum as well. Rumor has it they may shut down the internet tomorrow. Enjoy the coup, they might follow suit here.

The basic story is one that's been the horizon for a while. Reductions in oil income are forcing the government to cut off subsidies, which the opposition is now using to agitate against the regime. In early 2011 I thought Sudan was very vulnerable to an uprising, but while there were some protests at the time the Bashir regime repressed them quickly. Now they're back.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) - Anti-government protests erupted across Khartoum as Sudanese took to the streets after Friday prayers in the most widespread demonstrations yet against spending cuts unveiled this week.

The demonstrations, now in their sixth day, expanded beyond the core of student activists and spread into several neighborhoods that had been quiet.

The smell of teargas hung in the air and broken rocks covered streets as riot police and demonstrators faced off throughout the city, witnesses said. Demonstrators burned tires and security forces used batons to disperse them.

Large demonstrations have been relatively rare in Sudan, which avoided the "Arab Spring" protest movements which swept through neighboring Egypt and Libya. Security forces usually quickly disperse protests.

But government measures to cut spending to plug a budget gap - including the highly unpopular move of scaling back fuel subsidies - unleashed the protests.

The country has faced soaring inflation since South Sudan seceded a year ago - taking with it about three quarters of the country's oil production - and activists have been trying to use public frustration to build a movement to topple the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Things are messy as ever down south too, which isn't helping.