Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sudan's Spring Arrives

Protesters blocked roads in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital,  on Saturday, the eighth day of widening unrest sparked by rising prices. Inflation has risen each month, hitting 30.4 percent in May, before Finance Minister Ali Mahmud al-Rasul on Wednesday announced the scrapping of fuel subsidies, causing an immediate jump in the price of petrol. Bankrupt Sudan has lost billions of dollars in oil receipts since South Sudan gained independence last July leaving the north struggling for revenue, plagued by inflation, and with a severe shortage of dollars to pay for imports. The country's poverty rate is 46.5 percent, the United Nations says

Witnesses reported five separate demonstrations across the city after nightfall despite a police order to stamp out the unrest. Throughout the city, shouts against high food prices mixed with calls for freedom and an end to the 33-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir. The people are "fed up," said a taxi driver coping with a government-imposed fuel price increase of about 50 percent which took effect this week. Police and plain-clothed state intelligence agents have adopted a zero-tolerance policy, using tear gas, batons and whips against protesters.

The demonstrations symbolise "mass rejection of the regime's oppressive policies and its failure in governing this country," said Sudan Change Now, an activist youth movement. "The government must immediately retract the austerity measures it has adopted which reflect the distortion in its expenditure which continues to prioritise defence and security at the expense of social services,"

In Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, an AFP reporter saw separate groups of about 100 protesters scattering when police arrived firing tear gas or wielding batons. Witnesses in the eastern city of Gedaref said that about 200 people gathered in the main market where they denounced the high cost of food before police dispersed them with batons. "We will not be governed by a dictatorship!" they shouted, the witnesses said. Poverty is endemic in Gedaref and the two other eastern states of Kassala and Red Sea.

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