As has been the case on no few occasions over the years, when one wants to know what is going on in Sudan, one simply needs to go to Eric Reeves’ website. Reeves offered a comprehensive analysis of the events ongoing in Sudan in an article published on Saturday. Here, I would like to offer a brief summary for those without the time to access Reeves’ more extensive one.
Sudan’s economy is in shambles. The NCP government has been forced to eliminate subsidies on fuel. The protests currently ongoing are directly in response to that action, but indirectly are the result of an unsustainable situation. Subsidies were based upon sales of the oil now belonging to South Sudan. Sudan simply does not have the income to maintain them any longer.
Neither can the NCP regime continue indefinitely to fund the police state necessary to maintain order with a population becoming increasingly hostile. Subsidies help to keep the population content. The police apparatus keeps the lid on rebellion. With failure of subsidies AND a weakening ability to fund the police apparatus, the regime cannot endure. The pending economic collapse will accelerate if subsidies are reinstated. The government simply cannot afford to fund it any longer.
Eric Reeve’s summed up the situation well:
There is no exit for the regime, not after years of gross mismanagement of the economy, endemic graft, massive self-enrichment, misguided spending priorities, and a vast and expensive system of political patronage. The value of the Sudanese pound will fall even faster; the cost of imports will grow at a devastating rate; inflation will accelerate, though not with the precipitous nature of the nearly 100 percent increase in the price of fuel and cooking oil that has been experienced over the past six days. Reinstating subsidies would also ensure that the IMF abandons the regime.
There is no way to predict which way al-Bashir will jump; but if he remains committed to “confrontation,” we may be sure that it will be bloody and may well be long, given the nature of the response already in evidence.
We can expect the situation in Sudan to continue to deteriorate so long as the Bashir regime remains in power.
Significant clashes took place between protesters and police yesterday in the regional capitals of Madani and Al-Obayid, but also in the capital of Khartoum, where protests have been limited in size and primarily involved students. The police have thus far responded with the use of tear gas. The regime is trying to play down the protests by arguing that it is no big deal that university students are protesting. However, the Sudan Tribune reported that:
According to many witnesses, Friday’s protests were perhaps the most serious in the nation’s history since NCP took power 23 years ago.
Right now, it is fairly easy for the Khartoum regime to believe that the protests are primarily a response to the austerity measures put in place and that they will be weak and fleeting. Without the backing of the military, protests alone have little chance of success, even with international condemnation of efforts to quell them by the military. However, should the regime choose to employ significant violence, it could result in isolation from the African Union and Arab League.
What would change the situation substantially is if the military would change sides. This is much more likely to occur when soldiers are ordered to commit atrocities against civilians. Yet, this regime has already given those orders repeatedly. This is a regime that has committed genocide against segments of its own population and that is actively trying to starve hundreds of thousands of people now. The regime is likely to become more violent if it feels a real threat of collapse. Would there be any doubt that the leaders of the regime would face death in the aftermath of a successful revolt?
As the revolt continues, so will the violence increase. Not to be forgotten will be the millions of people who will be in danger of starvation, who will face severe health problems, and who will have weak governmental structures in place, if any at all, to aid them in the midst of the fighting. Hundreds of thousands are already in jeopardy of starvation in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Help Nuba!
The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in Sudan told three Sudanese newspapers on Sunday not to distribute their print runs. According to the Sudan Tribune:
The privately-owned dailies Al-Ahdath, Al-Watan and Al-Jarida received orders from the NISS not to distribute their print run on Sunday without giving them any reasons.
The newspapers have been instructed not to report on interactions with rebel leaders from Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile or with South Sudanese officials. It would appear that the Khartoum regime is also unhappy with reports about the removal of fuel subsidies or criticism of the National Congress Party (NCP).
The absence of a free press in Sudan and the expulsion of NGOs operating the regions of conflict make it even more difficult to obtain information about the situations in the border regions and easier for the Khartoum regime to worsen the abuse of their populations. Problematically for the regime, however, is the fact that this type of action also gives the internal opposition the ability to argue that the NCP is simply doing this to hide information that would benefit them politically, something that may well be true in this case. In the context of protests called about rising prices in Sudan, the NCP may have felt compelled to try to silence the media.