Sudanese calling for food and freedom

Sudan protests against President Bashir

The people of Atbara, Sudan took to the streets on Dec. 19 to protest the tripling of bread prices as a result of losing government bread subsidies in 2018. The most recent protests called for the dismissal of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir instead of demanding the renewal of bread subsidies.

As NPR reports, the protests are the result of skyrocketing prices. Sudan has seen a 70 percent increase in inflation since the secession of oil-rich South Sudan in 2011. “Freedom, peace, justice and the downfall of the regime” was chanted throughout the streets of Sudan, according to The Washington Post.

“It’s not about economics,” a protester named Wael told NPR. “They [al-Bashir’s government] are not going to improve the country. I am 25 years old. I cannot see my future here inside this country.”

The Sudanese government officially declared a state of emergency with curfews enforced in the capital Khartoum, Port Sudan, Atbara and Omdurman where demonstrations were held. The government has silenced national papers and shut down universities and schools as means to deter further protests. Authorities have arrested over 800 demonstrators and 14 leaders of the opposition group, National Consensus Forces. 19 demonstrators have died—according to an estimate by the UN—as a result of clashes between protestors and Sudan’s security forces since they began on Dec. 19.

Security forces have exercised excessive force against peaceful protestors, using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Local journalists put the death toll much higher. According to The New York Times, up to 28 have died in clashes, while Human Rights Watch currently estimates the death toll at 40.

The Sudanese Professional Association, an organization behind the Dec. 25 and Jan. 9 rallies, submitted a memorandum to the Parliament to “demand the regime give up the political and executive power to the Sudanese people who flooded the cities with their sole demand to end the regime’s 30 years of dictatorship.” However, the Sudanese government denounced the legitimacy of the association. “We rejected the memorandum because the Sudanese Professionals Association is not a legitimate legal body whose origin is not known,” said Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal.

In response to the Sudanese protests, President al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Crimes Court, promised economic measures including continued subsidies on basic food items and an increase in wages. The president blamed the protests on infiltrators looking for a way to exploit the economic hardships faced in Sudan.

“The regime is panicking,” said Hafiz Ismail Mohamed, an activist with nongovernmental organization Justice Africa to The New York Times. “I have never seen them panicking like this.”