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Following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, anti-regime demonstrations broke out in Sudan’s capital in January 2011 and this past December, yet failed to gain much momentum. The most recent series of protests that erupted on June 16 have persisted for more than three weeks, which according to Enough Project Senior Policy Advisor Omer Ismail, is a “prelude” to the end of President Omar al-Bashir’s 23 years in power.
In a new Enough Project video, Executive Director John Bradshaw and Ismail discuss the recent demonstrations and their effect on Sudan’s future.
What makes this round of protests different than previous ones, according to Ismail, is the degree of discontent with the government. The protests began as student-led demonstrations in opposition to recent austerity measures, but are now attracting a broader cross-section of the Sudanese population. Hundreds of Sudanese have mobilized not only in Khartoum, but throughout the country—including Port Sudan, Gedaref, and Wad Madani. “More and more people are feeling the crunch of the economic situation,” Ismail said.
In the past, Bashir has also been able to suppress resistance by playing the opposition parties off each other, but, for the first time, opposition parties are presenting a unified front against the Khartoum regime. As Bradshaw mentions in the video, on July 4, leaders of Sudan’s main opposition parties signed the Democratic Alternative Charter, a roadmap for democratic transition after the fall of the regime. According to Ismail, this unified stance from the opposition parties is unprecedented.
Although the ingredients for change seem to be in place, Ismail cautions that change will not be immediate. “The regime’s days are numbered, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. The end of Bashir’s regime will not be swift, but it will be “a death by a thousand cuts.”
Some analysts are concerned about the collapse of the Bashir regime, arguing that once the regime ends, Sudan will fall apart. In response to these critiques, Ismail said:
No, this [view] is actually playing into the hands of the Sudanese regime because the regime says: it is us or the chaos. No, the Sudanese are wiser than that. And people now are trying to talk about the Arab Spring and its impact on Sudan. No, the Sudanese have done it before. They have done it in October 1964 and they have done in April 1985. In both cases they unseated dictatorships. They are going for the hat trick and they are going to do it this time. It is in their DNA, it not something that is imported to Sudan; this is indigenous and homegrown and they know how to do it.