Arab Spring finally hits Sudan; regime intransigent
After more than a week of student anti-austerity demonstrations in Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir finally responded to the movement on June 24, telling a gathering of students affiliated to his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum that the protesters are "bubbles and aliens" who will be "dealt with." He urged students not to listen to the "conspirators, traitors and collaborators"—words usually used to describe armed rebels in Darfur and South Kordofan. He also implied the protesters are tools of the US: "We are not afraid of being overthrown by anybody. Not America or anyone else because it is Allah who gives the rule." In comments the next day, Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud said the government had no choice but to cut spending in response to a budget gap. "If international oil prices go up, we'll increase fuel prices," he told reporters in Khartoum. "We will not retreat from the decision to lift the subsidies."
Protests against austerity measures have spread from the capital to other cities, including al-Obaiyd in North Kordofan state, Madani in al-Jazzera, Port Sudan in the east, and Gedaref, near the border with Eritrea. Security forces have used tear-gas, batons and rubber bullets against protesters denouncing high proces and calling for the downfall of the regime. Activists report that a great number of students had sustained injuries in clashes around Khartoum University on June 24 with security forces and what they call “rapata”—a traditionali Sudanese term for bandits, used to describe NCP supporters who are sent in to break up the protests, armed with machetes and sticks. (Reuters, June 25; Sudan Tribune, June 24)