Summary: protests continue to grow. Economic grievances develop to “down, that’s it”. Change now or at elections in 2020?
Since our posting of 10 January there have been daily reports of the protests which began just a month ago. With a total of 22 protesters killed by 10 January, on 11 January security forces fired teargas to disperse larger demonstrations than before after Friday prayers in Khartoum. On 14 January
President Bashir said he would not step down; “The government does not change through demonstrations. We said we have an economic problem and it is not solved via vandalism” (inflation is now reportedly over 70%). Reuters quotes a Sudanese political analyst; “It is not protests anymore. It’s almost a full-fledged revolution.” The scale of these protests is unprecedented. “Multiple constituencies are joining forces against Bashir’s regime in order to achieve radical change.” What started as a protest about living conditions has turned into one about the regime. A number of professional and political groups announced their readiness to launch a massive civil disobedience campaign. According to an Al Jazeera report the opposition is divided; some want the government to step down now, others prefer to wait for the election due in April 2020.
There were more protests in working-class areas of Khartoum on 15 January. On 16 January the protests spread to Kassala, eastern Sudan and on 17 January to other cities, al-Qadarif, Atbara and Al-Ubayyid while continuing in Khartoum. Under the headline “Sudan must reform or seek bailout to pull economy out of nosedive” Reuters quoted a Sudanese banker; “The riots right now, all that’s going on, it’s just a reflection of the accumulation of the poverty and salaries being where they are and prices that keep going up. No one, no government, can sustain that.” There were violent clashes with security forces, mainly apparently using teargas, batons and rubber bullets but also live ammunition. A doctor and a child were killed, bringing the official total of dead to 24 with activists claiming the total was more than 40. By now the main call of the demonstrators was simply “Down, that’s it,” to send the message that their only demand is Bashir’s fall.
According to Sudanese sources quoted by Al Jazeera arrest warrants have been issued for 38 journalists and activists on charges of incitement and spreading false news On 18 January 5000 mourners turned out for the funeral of one protester who died from gunshot wounds. Mourners threw rocks, chanted anti-Bashir slogans and destroyed a police truck; the police fired live ammunition. Protests continued yesterday 20 January. Bashir accused infiltrators and saboteurs of killing demonstrators, saying that the weapons used do not exist in Sudan. The leader of the opposition Sadiq al-Mahdi called for a UN investigation into the deaths, giving the total as over 40.
On 17 January the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said reports of the use of excessive force including live ammunition were deeply worrying, listing 14 cities in which there had been demonstrations.
Many commentators suggest that Bashir will not survive as leader. Al Jazeera quotes a Sudanese analyst; this “movement will be successful in changing the regime. This can happen through a new political party taking over, or the ruling party side-stepping Bashir and bringing someone in his place. One thing we can be sure of is that Sudan is not the same Sudan post-December 19.”