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Tuesday 15 October 2013

Another “Arab Spring”?

By Fr. Kizito

In Khartoum (Sudan) there is an ongoing vicious repression against the street demonstrations triggered after the government has nearly doubled the price of fuel. The international media broke the news quoting a press release from Amnesty International, which has called on the government of Sudan to “immediately stop arbitrary and unlawful use of force against demonstrators who protested for days against the cut of subsidies on petrol . Between 24 and 25 September security forces have killed , hitting them in the head and chest, at least 50 protesters. According to sources and local activists , the dead would be over 100. Only in Omdurman , 36 dead bodies were sent to the morgue and 38 surgeries were performed. Most of the protesters killed were aged between 19 and 26 years.

The terrorist attacks in Kenya , Pakistan , Nigeria and the tensions in other parts of the world , Syria and Central African Republic, conspired to hide the Sudanese events. Yet some commentators have wondered if the regime of President Omar El -Bashir , in power since 1989, has reached the end of the road. For years , since the International Criminal Court ( ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against him, there have been protests against his regime , but so far all have been successfully repressed. Is this the beginning of the end for El- Bashir?

Thousands of people took to the streets across the country , first in Wad Madani and then in the capital Khartoum, and in all the major cities. On September 25, the Internet was suspended and the media were put under strict control by the security forces . Despite this , social networks around the world have been able to circulate photos and home videos where you see dozens of victims. Reliable sources confirmed that the dead, only to Khartoum, by Sunday 29 Septemebr were more than two hundred and ten. Dr. Ahmed al -Sheikh , head of an association of physicians , testified that the dead had been shot in the head and chest , and that the security forces summoned the relatives and wanted them to agree that on the medical certificate the doctor would write “death by natural causes”, and threatening to arrest them and the doctors who were not willing to cooperate.

Other sources confirm that persons detained by the NISS ( Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services , the Secret Service ) are several hundreds. It is easy to imagine that they are mistreated and tortured, because it is the routine, as was pointed out by the New York based African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies.

Friday, September 27, in Khartoum security forces have closed the offices of Al- Arabiya , an United Arab Emirates television channel, on charges of spreading false news. Al- Sudani and Al- Meghar Al-Siyasi, two newspapers, were also suspended, while other publications have self – suspended in protest.

The impression that the regime of El -Bashir is now at the end of the road is reinforced by the fact that on Sunday 29 the president has canceled a public speech because the large crowd that usually attends such events , was not there. It has never happened before.

Mohamed Yassin , a researcher at the University of Udine in Italy and spokesperson of the SPLM -N , said that “the international community becomes blind and deaf when there are victims in Sudan, while the news about the closure of Sudanese pipelines are always published and commented in detail. We know what is happening in Sudan only from the local activists , who risk their lives to circulate photos and videos. The international community at the most makes very general and routine statements and condemnations that are totally ineffective in stopping the river of blood that is engulfing the Sudan.”

Unfortunately El- Bashir, with the support of fanatic Islamists, was in the past able to overcame extremely difficult situations, and stay put in power. I remember a meeting I attended in 1989, a few weeks after El- Bashir took power in a coup, in Nairobi (Kenya ) in the home of a prominent south-Sudanese politician in exile, Clement Mboro. There were all the most important Sudanese opposition politicians of the moment, among others Bona Malwal , an intellectual who was in the U.K. at the time of the coup and had decided not to go back to Khartoum. Malwal had a long and very accurate political analysis of what had happened in Khartoum, concluding with a categorical: “All this makes me sure that El -Bashir will be ousted before Christmas”. It’s been twenty-four years: Mboro , consistent until the end , died in poverty in Nairobi , El-Bashir is still in power and Bona Malwal lives in a luxurious villa in Khartoum paid by El-Bashir as his main political adviser on South Sudanese matters.

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