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Student-Led Protests Spread Across Khartoum

  • John Tanza

Hundreds of university students from campuses across Sudan have led anti- government protests in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahari for five straight days. The students and their supporters are protesting against recent budget cuts and austerity measures introduced by the Sudanese government early last week in response to its faltering economy.

The cuts have caused food prices to rise sharply over the past week.

Farruk Abu Issa, the leader of the National Consensus Forces, an alliance of Sudanese opposition parties, said the protests will continue until there is a regime change in Sudan.

‘’They are not approving the policies of the government [in which] they are increasing the prices of all necessary commodities and services.’’

Issa said the protests are spreading to other towns across Sudan, sparking fear among
supporters of President Omar Al Bashir that Sudan may be witnessing its own Arab Spring.

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ramatallah Osman, dismissed the protests as nothing more than a show of discontent among disgruntled students. He said the recent budget cuts introduced by his government are meant to improve the country’s weak economy. Ramatallah blamed last year's separation of South Sudan from Sudan for the worsening economic crisis in his country.

But the opposition leader stressed that the aim of the protests is regime change in Sudan.

‘’We are committed to the demand, the national demand of the people to overthrow this government through an intifada, an uprising," Issa said. "We are implementing a program that will lead us to intifada, and these demonstrations are just the beginning.’’

Leaders of the students and opposition parties said security forces have arrested more than 200 people. A handful of local reporters and at least one foreign journalist were also arrested in the latest crackdown on demonstrators. An Egyptian journalist who works for Bloomberg and Al Ahram newspaper was arrested and released eight hours later.

Farruk Abu Issa said the arrests will not deter the protestors from pushing forward with their demand for regime change. He said any further arrests of opposition figures and student leaders will only encourage more protests.

The government of Sudan has said the protests are staged by people trying to create anarchy in the country. The Ministry of Information has censored publication of reports on the streets protests. Newspapers have been carrying reports on the events unfolding in the Sudanese capital.