Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Sudan

The protests in Sudan kicked off on December 18, 2010.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
This country completely fell beneath my radar for some reason. I'm going back in history because I missed them in chronological order. So I just saved them until the end. Sorry about that. I guess I should take a look around the internet and make sure I haven't missed anyone else.

Basic History
Sudan's official name is the Republic of Sudan. Geographically, Sudan is located in northeastern Africa. Important bordering countries include: Egypt and Libya. The capital is Khartoum. The population is estimated at 43.9 million people. The languages are Arabic and English.

Sudan's most recent leader is President Omar al-Bashir. The government is setup as a presidential democratic republic. The President of Sudan is head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the Sudan People's Armed Forces in a multi-party system. But Sudan is widely seen as an authoritarian state. Bashir's military coup in 1989 ended the last time there was a Prime Minister in Sudan. He also ensured sharia law was the law of the land. It wasn't until the civil war ended that opposition parties were recognized and power wasn't completely concentrated (at least on paper) in one person.

In terms of independence, Sudan has a long history, but the most recent is their separation from Egypt and the United Kingdom in 1956. Their current constitution has been in place in 2005. There have been many conflicts within Sudan, most notably in recent history in Darfur. That is a region in western Sudan that has been in a humanitarian crisis ever since the government of Sudan declared war on the non-Arab indigenous population. If you don't know about Darfur, please look it up.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: dissatisfaction with the government, rising prices, corruption, inner turmoil within the country.

I actually have seen conflicting dates for the exact start of these protests. The thing every website does agree on is that these protests in Sudan are linked to the independence referendum within the country, as well as the revolutions in neighboring Egypt.

Sudan has been dealing with a civil war between the government and the rebels. They signed a peace agreement in 2005, but not all the rebel groups agreed to the treaty. And the country is divided. Most of the oil that brings in much revenue is in the south of the country. The south wants to secede from the north (sound familiar?).

The country held a vote from January 9th to the 15th to see if it would split. the votes were overwhelmingly in favor of a split and an independent state will form this year on July 9th.  Right now, they're trying to work out issues with splitting the revenue from oil since northern Sudan will be it's own country.

But back to the protests. There were calls for protest before the referendum in support of Egypt and Tunisia. But after the referendum, a big protest was organized for January 30th. The police clashed with the people on two university campuses and in the capital city of Khartoum. There were protests reported in other cities as well. Many people were arrested and a number of people were injured.

Other protests were scheduled, but a number of them were stifled by police before they could even begin. In these protests, the demands seem to reflect the growing distrust of government by young people all over the region, but also the strife within the country over what would happen when the country splits.

President al-Bashir has made one major concession. He says he will not run again for office in 2015. That says nothing about who may run from his political party or what changes may need to happen in the country politically and economically between now and then. Some people consider the major protests in Sudan over, but time will tell as they move closer to the secession of the south and as food prices continue to rise.

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