Sudan: In response to nation-wide protests, Omar al-Bashir declares a state of emergency and dissolves the government

On the 22nd of February 2019 Sudan’s president – Omar al-Bashir, dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency for one year. He addressed the nation on television by saying “I announce imposing a state of emergency across the country for one year and dissolving the government at the federal level and at the provincial levels.” Essentially, he warned his people of potential chaos dramatically similar to the one of the Arab Spring protests leading to massive civil wars in states like Yemen, Syria and Libya. Moreover, he invited the parliament to postpone the scheduled constitutional amendments that would have permitted him to run for yet another mandate next year. Omar al-Bashir is a former army officer and an Islamist who managed to seize power in 1989 through a coup d’etat. Ever since, he has consistently refused to step down (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

Recently, al-Bashir has been presented with the most sustained challenge to his long-standing  rule – a multitude of widespread protests. Anti-government rebels have raged in the capital of Sudan – Khartoum, as well as in other towns all across the country in an effort to push the president to withdraw from his post, after holding a firm grip of power for thirty consecutive years. Initially, the uprisings started as an opposition to the increased prices but have since transformed into the greatest challenge to al-Bashir’s rule. The protests erupted in December 2018 and took the lives of nearly 60 people in violent clashes of civilians with security and forces. However, the government claims the death toll is lower, placing the number at 32. In an effort to crack down on the uprisings, the National Intelligence and Security Service detained hundreds of rebels and activists, arrested journalists and oppositional leaders. Nevertheless, the Sudanese Professionals Association, who is leading the uprisings, replied to the president’s announcement of state of emergency by pushing him to step down immediately: “We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved” (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

As a matter of fact, in October 2007 the US removed a long-standing trade embargo on Sudan that lasted for twenty years. This move was expected to ameliorate Sudan’s otherwise desperate economic situation, which worsened significantly upon the gaining of independence of South Sudan. The latter took place in 2011 as a result of a decades-long civil war. It led to the loss of one third of Sudan’s overall oil wealth. This forced the ruling elite of Sudan to seek support from gas-rich Turkey and Qatar (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”). The split between north and south inevitably brought about major economic repercussions for Sudan as a whole, where the economic system collapsed ever since. Chronic shortages of fuel and other inelastic basic goods were a commonplace with steadily rising prices for bread (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

In that regard, the primary reason for the emergence of the protest movements was the threefold raise of bread prices. Starting as a context-specific issue of discontent, these uprisings developed into a widespread expression of a broader dissatisfaction of the general population with the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in the country and ,crucially, al-Bashir’s thirty-year rule. On his part, the president labeled the protesters “infiltrators” for presenting an immense and unprecedented challenge to his autocratic rule. Therefore, security and government forces forcefully and violently cracked down on the demonstrations by deploying tear gas, live ammunitions and stun grenades in an effort to bring the movement to an end (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”).

Notably, the protesters have been calling for peace, justice and freedom, and essentially an end to the decades-old military dictatorship bringing about human rights abuses, killings and economic grievances. However, even though the demonstrations in Sudan have been deemed to resemble the Arab Spring movements, they are found to share little similarities. For the most part, the Sudanese people are not partaking in an orchestrated demonstration but rather move spontaneously and in their own way. They have used the Arab Spring chant of “The people want to bring down the regime” but, arguably, there have been few points of comparison to be reasonably made between the Arab revolution and the Sudanese uprising (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

References:

Deutsche Welle. Anger over Dictatorship, Not Bread, Fueling Sudan Uprising | DW | 29.12.2018. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/anger-over-dictatorship-not-bread-fueling-sudan-uprising/a-46894036. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Sudan’s Bashir Declares State of Emergency, Dissolves Government as Protests Mount | DW | 22.02.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/sudans-bashir-declares-state-of-emergency-dissolves-government-as-protests-mount/a-47643590. (Accessed February 25, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Wave of Protests Rock Sudan, at Least One Dead | DW | 24.01.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/wave-of-protests-rock-sudan-at-least-one-dead/a-47224745. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

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