On the 16th of December last year the genocidal presidents of Syria and Sudan met to discuss the “crises faced by Arab countries”, and Omar al-Bashir became the first Arab leader to visit Bashar al-Assad since the start of the revolution in 2011. Ironically, a few days later, Bashir was confronted with protests in Sudan, and by the 19thprotesters in Atbara took down to the streets demanding regime change. In a week those protests grew to become the biggest and most inclusive protests Sudan has witnessed in the past three decades of al-Bashir’s rule. This time it is not just political activists centered in Khartoum protesting oppressive economic policies, but it is largely composed of students and young people from rural areas demanding regime change. The hashtag “just fall” spread on social media and videos of boys no more than 10 years of age singing about Bashir’s corruption went viral.
The brave Sudanese people have finally spoken.
They sent a shiver down the spine of every Arab dictator who thought that the excessive violence and the unspoken atrocities that they committed in the last decade would permanently scar the people and stop them from raising their voice again. They were too vain and too preoccupied with their power hunger to realize that police states have an expiry date. Bashir, like the rest of the Arab leaders who were confronted by protests in the last decade, took power through a military coup against the former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi in 1989. He later appointed himself president in 1993 after gaining enough force through allying with the charismatic speaker of parliament and leader of National Islamic Front, Hassan al-Turabi. In 2011 Bashir imprisoned Turabi, his only source of legitimacy. His illegitimate rule coupled with the economic downturns the country went through in the past few decades, lead to the month of protests we have been witnessing.
Between 2018 and today Sudan has been experiencing inflation at rates higher than 30%. People had to search for cash machines after the banks stopped dispensing money on account of accrued government debt surpassing $50 billion. In the last months of 2018, queues in front of ATM’s, petrol stations, and even bakeries were a norm. This was not the only problem with Sudan’s economy. Since Bashir came to power in 1989 most of state’s spending has been on the military while health care, education, and infrastructure have been systematically ignored.
This continued to be true even after the United States lifted its sanctions in 2017. The unfair allocation of the government’s wealth highlights the amount of conflict that Bashir was involved in. He is not only the first arab leader to visit the genocidal president of Syria since 2011 but earlier on by 2008, he also became the first sitting leader to have been indicted for war crimes. This was four years after his regime killed more than 200,000 and displaced over a million people in Darfur. For a decade now, he has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for accusations of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
The people have had enough after Bashir showed interest in running for the 2020 elections. He has been president of the past thirty and none of his terms represent a rational basis for his rule. After the protests broke out he bragged about providing the people with necessities like food, water, and electricity. This was also a lie. Sudan is considered one of the poorest countries. The distribution of wealth is also highly unequal. In the rural areas around half the population live below the poverty line.
The people are tired of the empty promises of Bashir’s government. Their economic frustration is being fueled by anger towards his politically illegitimate rule.