Foreign Policy

Is Sudan next?

| by Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

One just can’t wake up each morning these days without finding something crying out for a Waging Nonviolence post. Today, with a bit of a lull after the fighting in Cairo yesterday, and with peaceful protests and counter-protests in Yemen, some notice is being paid to a fifth country (Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan…), about which Twitter has already been popping rumors of protest: Sudan.

The New York Times reports:

“The people of Sudan will not remain silent anymore,” said a Facebook group called Youth for Change. “It is about time we demand our rights and take what’s ours in a peaceful demonstration that will not involve any acts of sabotage.”

“It is about time we show what we’re really made of,” the group said. “Our brothers in Tunisia did it and so did our brothers in Egypt. It is about time for us.”

In the past week, in an unusual show of boldness, thousands of young Sudanese, many responding to the Facebook call, have braved beatings and arrests to protest against their government. The parallels to Egypt and Tunisia are obvious—Sudan is a notoriously repressive Arab country, ruled by the same strongman for more than 21 years, historically and culturally close to its big brother just down the Nile, Egypt. And it was already seething with economic and political discontent even before demonstrators started taking to the streets of Cairo.

An opposition movement there has its work cut out for it. Sudan is ruled by a military dictatorship with strong internal discipline. The protests remain small, scattered, and varying in their demands—though the Facebook page quoted above suggests a serious commitment to nonviolence. The Times reminds us that protests have worked there before:

Street-level uprisings brought down the government in 1964 and 1985. Those moments unfolded similarly to what is happening in Egypt, with people taking to the streets with specific economic and political complaints, the government initially trying to crack down and then the security services joining the masses and the government eventually acquiescing to their demands.

Human Rights Watch has already denounced the Khartoum regime’s use of excessive force against protesters:

The government responded to the demonstrations by dispatching armed riot police and national security forces to the protest sites, including university premises. The security personnel used force to disperse the demonstrators and arrested more than 100 people, including nine journalists, during the first two days of protests. Many of the protesters, including two arrested journalists, were subjected to beatings and ill-treatment.

One student, Mohammed Abderahman, reportedly died from injuries inflicted by security forces on January 30, activists said. Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm the death, but called on the Sudanese government to investigate the allegations immediately.

HRW also notes that violence in Darfur has also been on the rise lately, and that the same government in Khartoum is not taking the necessary steps to stop it. One can’t but hope that this intractable crisis in southern Sudan, which the international community has been so powerless to end, might finally be settled by an uprising from within.