Nation-wide uproar and protests throughout Sudan against injustice may finally bring change and hope to its people
Written by Husam Elgeneid
Sudan is currently experiencing its worst political and economic conditions in almost four decades. The country recently erupted into a nation-wide wave of protests against the ratification and announcement of the January 2018 budget. The budget is a reflection of the criminal, self-interested, power-hungry underpinnings of President Bashir’s government. Almost 75% of the entire budget has been allocated to defence, security and intelligence services; essentially a form of administrative protection at the expense of the livelihoods of the vast majority of the Sudanese population. The government has since decided to cut subsidies, namely its USD/SDG exchange rate for wheat imports, thereby doubling the prices of bread, whilst simultaneously destroying the value of the Sudanese pound. This has occurred alongside the imposition of wider austerity measures in line with the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As a result, the prices of basic commodities have become unaffordable for the average family. People are unable to feed their loved ones or provide them with medicine – and all based on the government’s unrealistic predictions of increases in the national GDP.
Since the start of the year, Sudanese people have taken to the streets in overwhelming numbers, participating in marches and rallies aimed at peacefully pressuring the government to reexamine its policies. The government’s response has been to dispatch its over-funded police and security forces, attacking and arresting hundreds of protesters, injuring several, and denying those arrested access to their families and lawyers. The government also began censoring the national media, arresting critical journalists and shutting down newspapers connected to the opposition – as if this would lead to political quietism or submission. The government has since released the majority of those detained, but has done very little to acknowledge their demands. The current administration is more concerned with using its watchdogs as a demonstration of prowess than to address the difficult lived realities of its people. People are dying, those who aren’t are fleeing, and those who can’t flee are living in unstable, uncertain and unfair conditions.
Sudan is a nation with great economic potential – one that can be surely realized. It is sitting on neglected land rich in natural resources. The agricultural potential alone could restructure the Sudanese economy, especially since the US recently lifted its twenty-year old economic sanctions. Yet, the country, like many other conflict-ridden African states drowning in Western debt and thrown into an international capitalist system designed to consume them, is plagued by corruption and government deficiency. Inadequate distributions of financial resources, as demonstrated by the 2018 budget, will only worsen conditions domestically and undermine the nation’s position internationally. The most recent protests are alarming, disheartening, and inspiring all at once. Alarming in the wake of a collapsing economy; disheartening in regards to the unbearable living conditions, and what seems like a never-ending struggle; and inspiring in respect to a growing civil society determined to bring about change. People who may never have previously envisioned themselves as political actors are making their voices heard and are choosing to fight against injustice.