Sudan Protests Are Ignored By the Media As They Enter Their Fourth Week

Nonviolent protests, clashes with government police, and riots have entered their fourth week in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and its neighboring city, Omdurman. As fellow PolicyMic pundit Kathleen O’Neill described, the opposition began its nonviolent movement when austerity measures increased food and petrol prices, but has now increased its demands to include the resignation of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and upholding rights to political participation and freedom of the press. This movement includes all ethnic and age groups within Sudan with Sudanese youth and women taking on new importance. As these clashes escalate, youth have taken to social media to inform the outside world, and each other, of what is happening. Violence is increasing as claims of the use of live ammunition, in addition to rubber bullets and tear gas, by police abound.

Within this exciting tumult of opposition versus government, the international community has been quiet. Most media outlets have reported on the protests during its first week and last week as its continued presence showed a determined will on the part of the opposition, if it was reported at all. The BBC continues to largely ignore Sudan; its latest article on the protests, dated June 29, is a meager 302 words long. New York Times Africa correspondents are producing much more regular, detailed content since Isma’il Kushkush is based in Khartoum. While insightful, these articles ignore Sudan’s history of nonviolent protest leading to changes in government in favor of the more buzz-worthy, but possibly tenuous, connection to last year’s Arab Spring. Despite implying the connection, New York Times Sudan coverage is relegated to beneath the fold of its Africa section in favor of daily Syria articles on the newspaper’s home page. But I thought they had revolutionary Spring in common?

Stephen Zunes of Open Democracy gives a more expansive history of Sudan’s past nonviolent uprisings without needing the buzz word connection. Zunes shows that despite their current small, disorganized nature, opposition protests have a high success rate of changing the Sudanese government historically.  These past coalition governments soon proved too weak to counter Islamist pressure, which unfortunately left the authoritarian nature of Sudanese political life unchanged. Despite the past failure to shore up democracy in Sudan, Zunes’ piece is critical in showing that these recent clashes have less to do with Arab Spring copy catting and more to do with the history and current problems of Sudan.

The opposition movement is working against the odds of the NCP's military prowess and  International Crimes Court wanted President al-Bashir's decades-long campaign to keep Sudanese civil society from developing. If international media, and thus international governments,  continue to ignore the clashes or simply report on their possible connection to Arab Spring, the opportunity to strengthen support for these pro-democracy movements to bolster them against the NCP’s violence and the possibility of future Islamist counter movements will be lost. The opposition movement's true aims and history should be recognized; honest reporting without weak links should be the industry standard.

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Katie Gresham

A graduate of American University's International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, Katie currently lives in London where she works with well-known international development NGOs. She has a keen interest in international affairs skewed towards development and conflicts issues. She has augmented her academic studies with trips to Northern Ireland, Kenya, Cyprus and the Balkans.

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