Student protests took place at the University of Khartoum denouncing the government’s planned austerity measures on June 17, 2012. The hundreds of students who were gathered at the university’s main gate were met with heavy police brutality; tear gas was fired and batons were used to suppress the protesters. Later that night police forces raided the female dormitories for the second time in two days to contain protests by female students against high prices.
The following day, on June 18, more protests broke out at the University of Khartoum only to be met with more police brutality. The students were chanting the all too familiar “The people want the fall of the regime.” The crackdown that followed saw several students arrested and injured.
The protests at the main university campus prompted more protests in other campuses, including the Education College in Omdurman and the Agriculture College in Khartoum North. The protesters were cordoned off by police and security forces, and several arrests were made.
On the first day of protests, a speech by president Omar Al-Bashir discussing the government’s austerity plans failed to pacify the angry protesters. The plan included a reduction in fuel subsidies – which has a direct effect on the prices of basic commodities – and significant cuts to government spending. The plans to reduce oil subsidies is aimed at reducing a US$2.5 billion budget deficit after the loss of oil revenues due to the secession of South Sudan in July last year.
Bloomberg’s Sudan correspondent, Salma El Wardany, tweeted:
— Salma Elwardany (@S_Elwardany) June 17, 2012
The removal of fuel subsidies will result in a further increase in inflation, already at 30%.
Sudan’s opposition National Consensus Forces promised to launch mass protests against the government’s planned austerity measures but were nowhere to be seen during the two days of protests in the capital.
Mohammed Ahmed showed his frustration at the lack of coverage of the events that took place in Khartoum by tweeting:
u better be kiddin me … Only 2 min of the truth …. Alarabia tv #السودان_ينتفض
— UNKNWN (@M7mdMirghani) June 18, 2012
To their desperation, the Sudanese community on Twitter welcomed Al Jazeera’s – and their social media show, The Stream – intentions of covering the protests with open arms and jubilation.
— Amru (@Shamarat) June 19, 2012
while tagging several media outlets in a desperate attempt to attract attention to the issues on the ground.
Muhammed Hamadain praised Al Jazeera’s The Stream for the late, yet necessary coverage of the protests in Khartoum, saying:
— جرافيتي الحرية (@mohamadain) June 19, 2012
Girifna, a non violent movement targeted by government security forces in the past year with many of its members detained for several months, has called for a general protest on 30 June, the 23rd anniversary of the National Congress Party’s (NCP) reign. Girifna’s official Twitter account tweeted:
— Girifna Media (@girifna) June 19, 2012
Sudanese online activists and concerned citizens alike are surprised at the late arrival, or lack, of an Arab Spring in Sudan. Hafez optimistically tags the current protests in Khartoum Sudan’s Arab Spring:
so Sudan is almost 1.5 years late entering its Arab spring, so lets say hello to it #arabspring
— احمد حافظ – A. Hafez (@ahmedhafeztweet) June 18, 2012
Twitter users from the Egyptian community showed their solidarity and expressed that the time for a revolution in Sudan is now; where this Twitter user noted:
Shayma Idris, a Sudanese on Twitter, said:
— Green April (@Green_baai) June 19, 2012
There seems to be a common sense of optimism that the recent protests in Khartoum will evolve into an all out revolution. The only concern seems to be the lack of professional coverage of the protests. The Sudanese online community believe that media coverage was an integral part of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and are therefore demanding the same for Sudan. With prices of basic commodities on a high, and the removal of fuel subsidies, a revolution is not far-fetched.
Written by Maha El-Sanosi