Amid Riots in Sudan, These Millennials Are Becoming a Powerful Force

This afternoon, Sudan's government shut off the internet, amid a third day of protests against the government. The country has seen fleeting protests since the start of uprisings in 2011, often times sparking rumors of its very own "Arab Spring." 

The grassroots protests are happening in neighborhoods all over Khartoum, the nation’s capital. The protests have come at the heels of a government decision to cut fuel subsidies, resulting in the immediate doubling of fuel prices. 

A total lack of localization, as well as press gags, has made confirming news and getting updates from outside the city incredibly difficult. The decision to shut down the internet was made in order to barr activists from organizing through social media.

The Chief of Staff of Khartoum hospital stated in a live interview on BBC Arabic that there were 21 killed and 80 wounded today, most of them students. Photos of students, dead in the capital city's streets, are starting to spread via social media.

Students in their uniformed best are taking part in the fight, which has led to an official closure of schools until at least September 30, according to BBC Arabic. The protesters are chanting: "We want the downfall of the regime."

There have been several incidents of dissidents burning buildings belonging to the National Congress Party (Sudan's ruling party) in Khartoum and Madani.

The de-localized nature of the protests, combined with the burning buildings, is spreading the police and National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) too thin, said Dalia Haj Omar a spokesperson for Girifna --- Arabic for "we've had enough" --- a grassroots, nonviolent protest movement against the government, that also acts as a citizen media collective.

The latest news is that police may have pulled out of the streets to protect government properties and most petrol stations in the capitol are closed (or have been burned) making mobility hard, so future protests may stay bound to neighborhoods. Shops are closing for fear of looting and which means people won’t be able to purchase basic necessities --- including credit for their cell phones --- potentially further impacting the outflow of information from Sudan.

“The situation on the ground is bad", Omar said starkly.

She noted what is most remarkable about the reaction to the current wave of outcries is the use of violence that has included not only tear gas, but also live ammunition. She also said that last year, over the course of six weeks of protests, there were very few deaths.

The activist says that the brutal response to the protests shows that the government is “very nervous and shaky this time.”

The main impetus for this millennial outpouring is the national economic crisis:

“In the last weeks the prices of basic foodstuff  have plummeted and the Sudanese currency depreciated to sharply vis-a-vis the dollar", said Omar.

Reuters reports the depreciation as a record low. The government's decision last week to lift fuel subsidies created even more anger.

Finally, President Omar Al Bashir's TV address on Sunday was the final trigger: “He said so much nonsense” said Azaz Shami, another Sudanese activist.  

According to the BBC, local media quoted President Bashir as saying that "no-one knew what a hotdog was before his rule, while a minister said they were responsible for the introduction of pizza to the country." 

Omar likened the president's comments to Marie Antoinette "telling the starving French to eat biscuits."

Amidst the chaos, it’s unclear where Sudan’s President is now. He was last seen having public and uncomfortable visa difficulties while arranging travel to the US to address the UN General Assembly.

He may well want to turn his eyes back toward his country, however. This may not be its “Arab Spring” but things are certainly brewing. Sudan Change Now, an in-country political movement, is organizing a protest outside of the Sudanese Embassy in London for this Saturday.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Amanda Sperber

I research media/communication, development and humanitarian crises.

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