The Sudanese capital has become the scene for growing protests against austerity measures of the government of President Omar al Bashir.
The protests started last Saturday by students from the University of Khartoum. But despite warnings by the national security the protests gained momentum and attracted more participants. Today, president Omar al Bashir tried to explain in the Parliament the need for reduction of fuel consumption and increase of food prices. But instead of calming down the public uproar, civilians from Omdurman and Mayo joined the demonstrations.
Until Sunday mainly students were shouting slogans against lifting subsidies on fuel and the increase of food prices. Amidst the demonstrators some student activists also called for toppling the regime. Police forces have intervened by using tear gas. The riot police fired bullet shots into the air to disperse protesters. Some protestors were fainting and vomiting. There are reports of students allied to the ruling National Congress Party armed with iron-bars accompanied the police and security services forces. They have assaulted several female students inside the university campus.
The National Umma Party supports the demonstrations. Its leader, Sadiq Al-Mahdi, has called the Sudanese to demonstrate in peaceful rallies. He described the austerity measures ‘as disastrous and humiliating” for the Sudanese people. The director for political affairs, Sarah Nugdallah, stated that citizens are no longer capable to tolerate the sufferings due to ‘mismanagement of the country’s economy and politics’.
The Popular Congress Party has also called for street-demonstrations against the increase in fuel prices. Kamal Omar Abdel Salam, the Secretary for Political Affairs has called for more demonstrations. ‘These are the signs of a revolution’, he told reporters. He mentioned nationwide demonstrations including Shendi and Wad Medani. He also asked students from other universities to take part in the protests: “This is a popular revolt to overthrow the regime”.
However the ruling National Congress Party dismissed the claims of the opposition. Nafie Ali Nafie, Vice-President of the National Congress Party, stated that the opposition parties are in favour of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front trying to overthrow the regime by violent means.
The Consultation Council of the ruling National Congress presided by Bashir has decided to stop subsidizing fuel, while recommending a restructuring of the government at the federal and state level. It suggested ways for increasing revenues and cutting down domestic expenses in order to reduce the need for foreign currency. Since the independence of South Sudan in 2011 and the resumed armed conflict in the border areas, the Khartoum government lost billions in oil revenues.
Student protests took place in the eastern town of Kassala. A number of citizens also tried to stage protests in the main bus station in Khartoum, but the police managed to disperse them. Khartoum police surrounded the universities and were deployed in the down town area to stop any attempts to mobilise on the streets. The opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF) called on the Sudanese, through SMS-text messages, to wear textile bracelets for three days to express their rejection of the increased prices. The opposition alliance further called for a campaign of sit-ins and civil disobedience throughout the country against the regime.