Protests in Sudan. Photo by Girifna

Growing protests in Sudan began on June 16 in response to austerity measures imposed by the Sudanese government, but have provided an outlet for additional grievances felt by the Sudanese people.

The austerity plan has involved the lifting of fuel subsides, which coincided with rapidly increasing fuel prices as the result of the dispute over oil with South Sudan. This has caused transportation costs to sky rocket. In addition to rising fuel costs, food prices have risen considerably due to a shortage that has been exacerbated by fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

These protests are significant for two primary reasons. They are the most sustained and widespread protests that Sudan has seen in many years and — while the marginalized people of Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Eastern Sudan have been discontent with the government for years — it is noteworthy that Sudan is experiencing growing dissatisfaction in areas of the country that have typically been supportive of the Sudanese regime.

The protestors are primarily university students and youth who don’t belong to any of the traditional parties in Sudan. The protests, sparked by women at Khartoum University, have expanded to several other states including North Kordofan, Red Sea, Kassala and Gedaref. The Sudanese government has responded by cracking down on protestors by using tear gas to dispel crowds, arresting activists and in some case torturing detained protestors.

The Sudanese government has announced that they will not back down from austerity measures despite growing civil unrest. With inflation on the rise, severely reduced oil revenue and costly military campaigns underway in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, austerity measures are unavoidable, unless of course the government makes the unlikely decision to end their costly wars.

As food prices, transportation costs and inflation continue to rise in Sudan, the sentiment of the Sudanese people is likely to continue to turn against the government. However, only time will tell if the protests are the beginning of an “Arab Spring” moment resulting in regime change or if the Sudanese government will be able to successfully cling on to power despite substantial internal and external pressure. A key indicator will be whether or not the protests continue to grow in size and frequency.

June 30 will be a potential flashpoint in Sudan as activists plan protests in major cities and in front of embassies throughout the world, marking the day that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir took power in a coup in 1989. You can follow the latest from Sudanese activists on Twitter under the hashtag #SudanRevolts. United to End Genocide will be continuing to track the government of Sudan’s response to the protests.

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