Recent protests in the wake of an increase in fuel prices have left dozens of people killed and hundreds arrested in Sudan. Reports indicate that the government of President Omar al-Bashir, in power nearly a quarter century since a 1989 military coup, shut down the Internet. Major newspapers also shuttered, keeping the country in relative international obscurity.
These protests cannot be understood without placing them in the context of Sudan’s political and legal history since its 1956 independence. Considering the demonstrations not as isolated events, but as part of a decades-long struggle for peace, leads to three insights into what may lie ahead for this troubled country.
First, Sudan is not new to intifada, even under Bashir. A wave of protests in 2010 and 2011 (after similar hikes in fuel and food prices) led to a number of deaths and detentions, particularly of vocal opposition and youth leaders. But this year many more everyday people, including middle- and working-class citizens and those who are simply hungry and angry, are involved. While Bashir remains the country’s top authority, the recent unrest has exposed cracks within his regime and among opposition factions. Bashir’s grip on power is far from secure; the Sudanese people have twice toppled autocratic governments and ushered in democratic administrations, in 1964 and 1985. As recent events in Egypt suggest, this Sudanese Spring may not be the country’s last one, independent of what comes of Bashir.