The Sudan Report

Omar al-Bashir has a bigger problem than the ICC: Ordinary citizens, including the middle classes, taking to the streets against the effects of austerity on their lives.

Omar al-Bashir. Image Credit: Jesse B. Awalt / U.S. Navy via Wikipedia

It is just over 100 days since the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted genocidaire Field-Marshall Omer Al-Bashir, President of the Sudan. Now here he stood to  center-stage in Juba, South Sudan, to be deliriously cheered by his erstwhile enemies as they celebrate their political independence from his regime.  The world sighed at the relief of a relatively peaceful end to decades of conflict, death and displacement, and reveled in the promise of an independent South Sudan.  It has been a short honeymoon.

Bereft of oil the north faces a chronic fiscal shock and a deep recession that could tear apart the remnants of Sudan. Government is yet to reconstitute itself since the departure of a third of the antebellum cabinet to the South’s new government.  And despite the need to draft a new Constitution to replace the “interim” document brought into being through the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, no process has been unveiled, and little progress has been made on building blocks of nationhood as basic as citizenship.  Willful delusion, hubris and a recalcitrant leadership has left the country adrift with an unaccountable government largely paralysed amid steeply escalating food prices, and an acute and worsening dollar shortage.

Unsurprisingly, the populace is increasingly restive.  At the periphery long-dormant secessionist conflicts trace the contours of a “new South” and have been met by a brutal onslaught by the Sudanese Armed Forces and their proxies.  In the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan estimates of citizens displaced this year by the aerial bombardments of villages run from 60,000 to 150,000.  In Blue Nile antonov raids allegedly targetting civilian populations in order to cut supply lines to rebels have forced nearly 30,000 across the border into Ethiopia, while in the oil rich and disputed region of Abyei approximately 110,000 Dinka Ngok have been forced from their homes into South Sudan.  Renewed and credible allegations of war crimes have stalled any rehabilitation the North could have expected to receive from the international community in return for the finalization of secession.

But it is in the cities that a new and – in the eyes of the regime – more disturbing trend is increasingly common: Ordinary citizens, and increasing numbers of the middle classes, are taking to the streets in spontaneous protests centering on the crisis of diminished livelihoods eroded by inflation.

In January this year the self-immolation of a Tunisian street trader unleashed the long-oppressed voice of the Arab street across a swathe of MENA.  Thus far, Khartoum has avoided contagion from the region, but with a 30% revenue reduction yet to filter through the state apparatus, and a three-year austerity budget targeting a 25% spending reduction yet to be implemented, significant pain is still to come.  Watch this space.

Further Reading

Between two evils

After losing its parliamentary majority for the first time, the African National Congress is scrambling to form a coalition government. The options are bleak.

Heeding the call

At the 31st New York African Film Festival, young filmmakers set the stage with adventurous and varied experiments in African cinema.