Two Sudanese pro-democracy activists “face up to 10 years in prison after a judge charged them Wednesday in a terrorism-linked conspiracy over Arab Spring-style discontent sparked by inflation,” Agence France Presse reports:
Rudwan Daud, a resident of the United States, and Ahmed Ali each face several accusations but the most serious is involvement with a terrorist or criminal organisation, their lawyer Khaled Awad said …..Daud is an activist with Girifna (“We are fed up”), a non-violent youth movement which, like its counterparts in Syria and elsewhere, has used Twitter and other social media to spread its anti-government message and support street protests.
The two activists join up to 2,000 others detained over the past month in a government crackdown against the “Khartoum Spring” protest movement against President Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist government, inspired by the revolts that toppled the leaders of Sudan’s neighbors in Egypt and Libya, as the uprisings in Tunisia and Yemen.
It’s more appropriate to describe the unrest as the “Hibiscus Revolution”, says analyst Manuel Schwab.
“Hibiscus is a domestic crop – a localized economy. It’s been hit hard by sanctions, the unfolding of the flower, and the powerful qualities it has,” says Schwab.
The US is maintaining sanctions against Khartoum despite its consent to the relatively peaceful secession of South Sudan because of its recent aggression towards the country’s minorities, says the US special envoy.
“Sudan needs to reform its governance of the country, to take into account the legitimate demands of people in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and the east as well as the demands for greater freedom of expression, press, and human rights throughout the country…Such changes would also lead to full normalisation of relations with the United States,” Princeton Lyman told the Financial Times:
The US hand is also complicated by the international indictment for war crimes hanging over Mr Bashir and other members of his regime. …A dispute over transport fees for southern oil exported via northern infrastructure saw the south shut down its entire production this year, depriving the north of yet more money. Without oil, the impact of sanctions is more keenly felt, helping prompt the Khartoum regime to seek a deal over security and finances with the South before an August 2 deadline. Failure to reach a deal could lead to more sanctions.
“Sanctions may now be more effective and obviously they make things more difficult,” says a Sudan analyst in Khartoum. “Sanctions have always been more punishing to the people, but they are not linked in protesters’ minds. I don’t think sanctions serve anyone’s purposes now. Had they [the US] dealt with it more honestly, they could have made them count,” he said.
The release of $213m in its 2013 budget for debt relief will depend on “political changes” in Khartoum, says Lyman, who says that the US “would respond within legislative limits if humanitarian access was allowed and political talks were under way” in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
He has been weakened by the loss of oil-rich South Sudan, which became independent last year after two decades of Africa’s bloodiest civil war. His regime has had to impose painful economic austerity measures to make up for the loss of revenues from the south’s oil, sending inflation up to nearly 40 percent this month. The years-old rebellion in the western Darfur region continues to bleed the country. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in that region.
“We have more reasons than any other Arab country for an uprising,” said opposition activist Siddique Tawer. “No other country was split. Sudan was. No other country has a civil war ongoing in Darfur and (fighting along the border with the South).”
“These are enough reasons to topple a regime, aside from the corruption, oppression and the rising cost of living,” he said. “The continuation of this regime is dangerous for the rest of the Sudan.”
But those troubles could also prolong the life of al-Bashir’s regime, The Associated Press reports. Al-Bashir has showed a survivor’s talent for using external threats to keep key parts of the public behind him. He is backed by a brutal security machine and a network of interests built on Islamist ideology, economic ties and tribal politics. At an inauguration of a factory in central Sudan on July 11, al-Bashir ridiculed prospects for an uprising.
“They talk of an Arab Spring. Let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies,” al-Bashir said, waving his cane threateningly….Under a blanket of fear instilled by security agencies, several activists spoke to The Associated Press on condition anonymity to avoid detention or refused to talk at all.
The Sudanese people are looking at the transitions in Tunisia and Egypt as models to fuel their protests’ momentum, says analyst David Anderson.
“The story in Sudan in the last 15 to 18 months has been one of savage and rapid economic decline. The government has lost control of its economy as a consequence of the split of the south,” he says.
But other observers are skeptical about the protest movement’s sustainability.
“I think a popular uprising to topple the regime is not an attractive option to the Sudanese right now,” said Hassan Haj Ali, a Khartoum University political science professor:
Many are wary of new turmoil after the long civil war and are bracing for a worsening economy. Sudanese also remember how unrest against al-Bashir’s predecessors led to military coups, bringing Sudanese “back to square one,” he said.
“What remains of Sudan may not hold as one bloc and may become so unstable it reflects on neighboring countries,” including South Sudan, said Haj Ali. As a result, regional powers — and the United States, he said — may prefer “to deal with the regime in its current condition and not be embroiled in further crises.”
The protests have waned, said Nagui Moussa, a 26-year old activist from the protest group Girifna, because of the crackdown and the fasting month of Ramadan — but “people have changed. Why? Because they are seeing the continuous lies of the regime.”
Protests in Khartoum make those in the core of Sudan realize that “the injustice is all over, in the center as in the periphery.”
“People will see that the one who strikes and tortures in the south, or in Darfur, is the same as the one who strikes and tortures in the north,” he said.
Princeton Lyman is a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.