The moment has finally arrived: the immensely destructive economic catastrophe engineered by the Omar al-Bashir’s National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has sparked outrage and demonstrations not seen for almost five years. But the regime remains fully in control of the police and security forces (the army in the middle ranks is another matter): will ruthless survivalism dictate that the peaceful demonstrations, reflecting massive popular discontent, nonetheless confront again the savagery we saw in September 2013, during which “shoot to kill” orders were given to quell the demonstrations that had quickly spread to many cities in Sudan? The death toll is usually cited as roughly 200 killed; but contemporaneous reports, not fully confirmed, indicated that large numbers were killed in locations outside Khartoum, were the deaths were counted. Some estimates ranged to several times the 200 cited so frequently.
And of course the number of wounded and those incarcerated was much greater yet.
The arrests since January 1, 2018 and the regime’s promulgation of its new budget—with massive, unsustainable increases in prices for basic commodities—now number well over 100, including a dozen international and Sudanese journalists. Newspapers cannot publish anything that covers either the outrageous 2018 budget or the protests of that budget: print news has been silenced.
Social media use in Khartoum, on the other hand, has become much more sophisticated and rapid over the past five years. Video and voice and text reports have appeared almost contemporaneously with events on the ground. One development to watch for closely will be the regime’s efforts to silence people—and prevent organization by political parties—by shutting down the Internet or phone services. This happened, if briefly, in September 2013; in some ways, it is the regime’s most potent weapon to enforce silence.
The question Sudanese are even now answering in their hearts and minds is a stark one: will fear of violence outweigh the outrage felt nearly universally? Or will that outrage finally overcome fear, as the urgency of regime change becomes steadily more evident? Most Sudanese now know that they can count on very little help from a feckless, expedient international community, which has a despicable stake in the regime’s survival.
Fear or anger triumphant? This is a question that Sudanese must answer for themselves—and every person in Sudan must answer it for himself or herself. In such extreme circumstances, there can be no exhortation, only admiration for courage and resilience when we see it…for as long as we see it.
(c) 2018 SUDAN Research, Analysis, and Ad