Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Devil Behind the Demon Mask

Wad Nubawi protest before it was dispersed

Originally featured on Muftah.Org http://muftah.org/the-devil-shows-its-face-government-manipulation-of-islam-in-sudan/ 

Following Friday prayer on July 6, 2012, hundreds of men andwomen of all ages gathered outside Sayed Abdelrahman Mosque in the Wad Nubawi district of Omdurman to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate. Within minutes of its commencementthe peaceful protest was met with a flurry of tear gas grenades and rubber bullets that quickly forced people to rush back and seek refuge within the gates of the mosque.Blood could be seen on the ground and cries sounded of someone being shot. It only took a few moments to discover whose blood had been spiltit was Quteyba the Ansari*, the result of a live bullet fired from a NISS gun to his leg.

Wquickly learned that retreating to mosque grounds would not be as safe as we assumed. Regime authorities advanced to each of the mosque’s exits and released canister after canister of tear gas into the areaThe barrage continued for hours as we chantedwith officers alternating between shooting tear gas and rubber bullets and injuring dozens more in the processUnable to continue unharmed, wsought refuge within the walls of the mosque itself, shutting doors and windows behind us. We knewthat the confined space could be suffocating, but we were in dire need of respite. To our disbelief, the surrounding security forcesthen redirected the tear gas canisters at the doors and windowsof the mosqueFleeting moments of panic passed as we suddenly began to realize that the police and NISS meant to flush us out, making us choose between asphyxiation or escape and imminent capture.

Left with no recourse, a cry for help went out to the locals of Wad Nubawi through the mosque loudspeaker system, whowere trapped in their homes by armed NISS and police vehicles stationed between every few houses in the district. Nonetheless they reacted, climbing their roof tops and pelting the authoritieswith stones, allowing just enough room for us to escape the mosque.

Despite the window of opportunity created by the neighboring residents, very few attempted to leaveWith the smell of tear gas steadily intensifying, the mosque began to resemble a battlefield. Yet worship continued as normal. Refusing to leave one anotherbehind, people took turns at manning the fort to allow others topray Asr, using water to put out incoming tear gas canisters or hurling them back out to the police. The Mahdi’s Rattib** resounded as usual and afterwards revolutionary chants filled the air as protesters cleaned the mosque, which by then was littered with debris from the day’s events. Around Maghreb prayer, police forces finally retreated, allowing protesters to safely leave the mosque

Ansari hurling teargas canisters outside mosque grounds

While these events were shocking as they unfolded, in retrospectthe most lasting effect was witnessing such unabashed hypocrisy from the NCP regimeSudan’s Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie accuses anti-regime protesters of seeking to “eradicate”Islamic Sharia law in order to make way for a secular state.Real Sharia, as we know, is the emulation of the Prophet Mohamed’s establishment of the first Islamic state in Medina. In his great wisdom, the Prophet Mohamed demonstrated a democratic spirit; he drew up a historically specific constitution based on the (religious/Islamic) principles revealed to him, in the process seeking consensus from all who would be affected by its implementation. The first Islamic state established was constitutional in character and the ruler governed with the explicit written consent of all the citizens of the state. Freedom of religion was guaranteed for all within the Islamic state. TheProphet Mohamed’s interpretation of the Qur’an promotedharmony; it was democratic, tolerant and compassionate. The atmosphere and actions of those in the Wad Nubawi mosque on Friday are what I believe to be reminiscent of the very same tenets taught by the Prophet in governance: devotion, loyalty, compassion, harmony, resilience.

The NCP regime, on the other hand, claiming to rule under the banner of Shari’a law, has effectively desecrated the image of Islam for the past 23 yearsThey have forged civil wars, driving our brethren in the South away, and fostered the kind of divisivereligious incitement that leads to churches being burned in Khartoum. Even in predominately Muslim peripheries such as Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile, thegovernment has systematically marginalized and oppressed raping, pillaging and attempting to eradicate whole tribes – in direct contradiction to basic Islamic tenets and attributes ofpeaceful co-existenceSudanese women – our mothers, sisters and daughters, once pioneers admired across the Muslim world– have been stunted, demonized and ridiculously portrayed as sinful jezebels due to our rulers’ insecurities. NCP Islam has overseen a socioeconomic disintegration that has pauperized the population in favour of the “superior” few. Those corrupt fewnow ask that the Sudanese people, who they have described as“bats”, “vagabonds” and “outcasts, accept theirimpoverishment as the will of God”.

Far from a moral and legal compass, Sharia has been nothing but a political tool used by the NCP to consolidate their hold on power. While some naively believed the rhetoric and ralliedaround ‘the Islamic State’, the majority has known that the regime’s founding ideology has long been perverted by power and greed. In the past, the NCP made an effort, however minimal, to cover up their religious merchandizing, if only as a courtesy. However, when CS gas is fired into a house of worship on specific orders, it seems evident that we are no longer dealing with a regime that can be bothered with even insincere courtesies.

mosque grounds bombarded with teargas

CS gasknown to cause severe pulmonary damage and other serious complications, was outlawed even in war by the terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. International law limits its use to police forces as a temporary incapacitant and to subdue attackers or persons who are violently aggressive. The label on the canister itself cautions against indoor use and warns of serious injury or death if aimed directly at peopleThis can be attested by the widowed wife and orphaned children of Amir Bayoumi, killed by the effects of CS inhaled during a similarprotest in Omdurman a week prior. The Center also states that those exposed to CS gas should seek immediate medical attention. This is a ‘luxury’ not afforded to the injuredprotestors, with security forces waiting at hospitals to intercept and arrest them. If this wasn’t ruthless enough, directives have been given to hospitals to deny demonstrator treatment.  

CS tear gas canister collected at Friday’s protest

Many were confused when President Bashir gave a speech stating that from here on, Sharia law would be fully implemented. They mused, if this was the case, what have the last 23 years been about?” The threatening tone of this statement is even more puzzling when considering the true participatory nature of Shari’a law. But to those present in Wad Nubawi the past two Fridays the message is clear: with its power threatened, the devil has removed its mask and shown its true face!

* Ansar are followers of a Sufi religious movement in the Sudanwhose followers are disciples of Muhammad Ahmad AlMahdi (12 August 1844 – 22 June 1885)

** A compilation of the Mahdi’s prayers (du’aas) and sermons that is recited daily after Fajr and Asr prayers by Ansar (both in their homes and mosques).

With contributions and edits by Sara Elhassan and Mohamed Abdel-Razig

Raw Testimony from Released Detainee

The victim has asked to remain anonymous to protect his family from NISS terrorism. However he has outlined his experience in order to expose NISS treatment to help those still detained. Please circulate widely amongst Human Rights Organizations and media. If HR Organizations and media would like to contact him for further follow-up then please DM me on twitter (Usiful_ME) and I will facilitate contact.

On Friday 22nd of June about 11:30pm I was with friends as we left a wedding in Rivera Hall in Omdurman. Me and two other friends got in one car (a Prado) and the rest of the group (two) got in another car. We were supposed to be on our way to eat at Omer Bosch on al Arbeen Street. On the way there, we were hit from behind by a car. We got out to see what had happened and decided to just get back in the car when we saw it was minor. I recognized one of the guys in the other car as Baha Al Din Mohamed Abdallah, Sudan and ex-Merrikh goalkeeper. When we got in the car we were attacked with sticks, whips and metal rods by random people in civilian clothes. We were able to get away because we were in the car. We then got to the Banat traffic light – we thought these we’re protestors. We didn’t realize but they had followed us. They blocked us at the traffic light by a “Getz” and we were attacked by about 20 of them – brutal beatings. Then after throwing me on the road, stomping and kicking they took us on the back of a Toyota pick-up truck faced down, kicking, beating and whipping. The driver of the car we had gotten into the accident with was also arrested with us.

Until this moment I never imagined that these could be law enforcement officers. They took us to a building with a garden with about 50 people arrested all facing the wall. They gave us a presidential reception beating.  I got to know where it was when we were released. It was next to Blue Nile hospital. So after being received by metal rods, wooden sticks and whips we we’re made to stand up. A guy in his late 20’s took me into the garden and put a gun to my head and said if I don’t tell him where I put my weapons (Clashinkov) that he’s going to put a bullet in my head. I was then roughed up for at least an hour and a half. They hit me on my leg really badly although I told them I had a surgery there; so they hit it more. They started saying look how fat he is; why are you protesting fatty? One took a dagger and held my stomach and said “have you ever been hungry?”, “should I pierce your belly?”. They then took my wallet and he saw an old hospital ID from Saudi where I was working before called Guwaa Al Amn (Security Forces Hospital). So he started to tell me “you work for the Saudi security forces”.  I told him I’m a doctor and am on holiday in Sudan from the UK. He said to me, the opposition is in the UK, looks like the new government is yours. After I thought they broke my leg, one of them acting like the nice guy let me sit on a chair but never stopped them from attacking me. He put me on my leg and then one flipped the chair over. I fell back on my head, when I got up one of them struck me with a wooden stick on the back of my neck. I kind of blacked out for a few seconds. I asked them for water so one brought a bottle of water over and poured it over my head. He said “you want water? Your spoiled kind spends 150 million pounds on the type of perfume you use”. He took me to an office and gave me a coffee table to put my leg on. Then everyone would come; threaten, slap, verbally abuse. Then one came over, seemed to be the officer in charge, big light skinned man. He asked me who I was and what happened. I told him. Then he asked who my family was so I told him and he said “really, that’s your grandfather, I know him from ElMerrikh”.  I thought he would let us go, but no effect. Then everyone would pretend to be an economist and say “do you know why the fiscal austerity measures were made?”. They’d talk crap for an hour and talk about Higlig and how they are the real men that were out fighting there. I just played along “really is that why they did the fiscal austerity measures? That’s excellent; I never knew the government was so wise”.

At that point I was taken for interrogation: Name, address, family members, friends, facebook ID and password. Then they took us to a prayer room, made us lie on the floor, they gave me water and after 20 minutes I started losing consciousness and vomited. They started getting worried saying to release me before I died on their hands. They said one of the guys arrested with us had his brothers waiting for us outside – “let them take him”. So they took me to them because they thought I was going to die. They took my wallet, gave me my bank cards and ID cards, and stole the leather wallet and money inside.  They tried to open my iPhone but they couldn’t so they sent it next day with my friends. The brothers took me to Royal Care Hospital who wouldn’t admit me because they said they had orders from NISS not to accept anyone. I was able to check into another hospital, only because the owner is a close family friend. I spent two days in hospital but I continue to have terrible headaches and blurring of vision so have scheduled to have an MRI. Because I’m cluster phobic I’m supposed to get sedation.

Letter from Khartoum – My experience being detained at NISS in 2011

I hadn’t intended to post this article I wrote about my detention at NISS last year (first published in the Independent World Report on April 25th, 2011 http://www.independentworldreport.com/2011/04/letter-from-khartoum/). I felt that doing so would detract attention from today’s detainees who need our full focus. However given the protracted detentions of many students and youth, the growing number of arrests over the last week, and the lack of coverage this has been receiving, I felt it may be beneficial to republish this article which exposes the torture, conditions and brutality to which NISS detainees are subjected What you will read below is quite disturbing, I’ve laced it with as much humor as possible but I was one of the lucky ones and the sad reality is that what detainees go through at NISS is no laughing matter. If you know any of the detainees and have any information on their conditions then please do pass this along to human rights organizations and media and help them get in contact with detainees families – I and many others can help with this. Exposure of NISS treatment and their unperturbed violation of any and all human right laws is the only way we can contribute to improving the plight of today’s detainees.

On January 30, I along with my brother Salah, a few of our friends and relatives took part in a peaceful youth demonstration (a right granted by the Sudanese constitution) on Qasr street in Khartoum. We were protesting against price hikes, tax increases, the state of the economy, corruption, the absence of basic rights and freedoms, and the general state of affairs in Sudan.

Within minutes, the demonstration was attacked by forces who were wearing riot police uniform. We suspect them to be costumed members of al-Amn, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), as we would later see boxes of police uniforms stashed away in an al-Amn office. Without provocation they laid into us with their batons taking particular joy in snatching and beating female protesters.

Two of our friends, Salah, and I were arrested. Initially we were taken to a nearby al-Amn office, a few doors away from the Republican palace. Here, with arms raised, we were made to stand in the courtyard facing the wall while being whipped and beaten from behind. I quickly came to learn that this was al-Amn’s favoured position. They were not brave enough to face you, and were petrified of the idea of you seeing their faces.

When asked for my name, I gave it in full, “Yousif Mubarak Abdullahi ElFadil ElMahdi.” Their reaction made it clear that I was already under their radar. Immediately they led me, alone, into the office of someone who seemed to be the officer in charge. Here, we went through an hour of good cop, bad cop. The boss would pretend to interrogate me, asking me questions like “Why did you participate in the protest?” or “How did you know that there was a protest today?” Then, he would suddenly leave the office before I even had a chance to answer his questions.

The door would then close and the remaining four officers would attack me – punching, slapping, and kicking. One of them hit me on the head with the leg of a chair. While they were beating me, they were shouting all sorts of accusations, saying that they had been following me the night before when I supposedly organised a meeting to plot the downfall of the ruling National Congress party. I was actually in my home, plotting the downfall of Manchester United at the hands of Southampton in the FA cup. I am not a very good plotter though – Manchester won (they always do).

I was further accused of plotting to install my father into power (an opposition leader, of the Umma Party); then, it was my uncle (Sadiq ElMahdi, former prime minister); then, it was my cousin Mariam Sadiq ElMahdi (one of the officers was gloating about how he had previously arrested her). One of them eventually came to the conclusion that I was actually planning to take over power myself, hence, I was given the nickname prime minister.

From here, we – I, Salah, one of our friends, and another protester – were transported to al-Amn’s political office in Bahri, north of Khartoum. I had not seen Salah for an hour. Now his arm was damaged – heavily swollen, likely dislocated. He was clutching his shoulder.

In Bahri, we were made to crouch in front of a wall in the courtyard with our faces covered with pieces of cloth. Then, al-Amn officers took turns to insult and beat us. Anything went. We were punched, slapped, kicked, struck on the face, head, arms, legs, back, ribs, stomach, groin with whips, metal rods, and batons.

From the voices, I could tell there were about twenty of us. I recognised one of the voices as that of a friend who I did not know was arrested. From what he was saying I could tell that his younger brother was also arrested. The beatings went on for about three or four hours. I could tell the time because both Zuhr (noon) and Asr (afternoon) prayer calls went off while we were being beaten. While crouched facing the wall, I could hear men screaming in agony. It was clear that they were being subjected to torture in rooms nearby.

Shortly after the Asr prayer call, I was taken up to the second floor of a building where I was to be interrogated by three al-Amn officers. The interrogation was led by an officer named Sidoun. His interrogation lacked any structure or construction. For instance, he alleged sexual relations between two members of the Umma party – one a twenty-something male, the other a sixty-something grandmother – and asked me what I knew about that. One of his colleagues asked me to recite surah al-Kafiroon, while another asked if I was a communist.

Once this amusing interrogation was over, I was again made to crouch facing a wall, this time in the second floor corridor. Here, I heard the voice of Mohamed Adil, another friend. Again, I did not know that he was arrested. He was facing the adjacent wall and was clearly struggling. Later, I came to know that he had been electrocuted twice. He also contracted typhoid while in detention. Salah was also there, and the three of us were made to crouch in the corridor until the Asr prayer the following day. Almost twenty-four hours.

We were then led out of the building, across the courtyard and into a holding cell at the back of the compound. This makeshift cell (originally a generator shed) was actually a cage – around 8 x 3 meters in size, with concrete floor and zinc roof. In this cell there were about forty males, mostly students, some as young as eighteen.

Those students had been beaten to a pulp, as was apparent from the blood on their torn shirts. Most could not even walk. One of them crawled over to me. I could tell he was in endless pain. He asked me to cushion his head on my thigh, and then whispered “Did the demonstration take place, was it big?”

At that point, all I could think was how much heart those boys had. They were beaten almost to the point of disability and still wanted to know how the demonstration went. Their spirit was clearly not broken. It was clear that the majority of them had been arrested before the demonstration actually took place – most the night before, suspected of intending to participate.

That is how efficient al-Amn in Sudan is. They can actually read your mind and arrest you for intending something. As the day went by, I managed to quietly talk to most of the detainees. All of them had been tortured, in Bahri and at a number of other al-Amn offices that they were taken to before Bahri. Electrocution and brutal physical beatings were the common methods of torture for all of them. Some of them showed me injuries on their bodies where they were burnt with boiled sugar. A few were also stripped down totally naked and threatened with rape by an officer who would expose his genitals.

The first week we were there was the worst. We were deprived of sleep as anyone caught sleeping during the day would be beaten. Then, we were barred from using the toilet for long periods, depending on the mood of the duty officers. When we did get the chance to use the toilet, which was across the courtyard, officers would crowd around us kicking, slapping, and insulting us on the way there and back. This also happened inside the cage. Officers would come inside to attack and insult us.

We were given very little food. And there were absolutely no family phone calls, or contact with lawyers. Despite many being injured, ill, or both, there were no doctors. The worst treated were two Darfuri students, and a student belonging to the United Popular Forces, from Gezira. Those three were clearly singled out and accused of “attempting to give the Darfuri movements a national flavour.”

After the first week, Ibrahim Almaz, El-sir Gibreel Tiya, and other senior members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were brought into our cage. al-Amn captured them in Darfur. From that point, we were largely left alone as the JEM members took over the attention and ire of the officers.

Almaz and his comrades were blind-folded and cuffed at the arms and feet. They were beaten endlessly with chains in front of our eyes; and, barred from using the toilet, sometimes for up to twenty-four hours. Every midnight, they were summoned and taken out of the cage. When they were returned to the cage a few hours later we could clearly see how badly they had been tortured. Gibreel Tiya had deep cuts on his feet which were swollen and looked infected.

Other Darfuris were also brought in and out at various times, from Kober and Dabak prisons where they had been held for twelve to thirty-six months. al-Amn accused them of being JEM loyalists. Most were middle-aged and old men who had been detained from all over Sudan. After talking to them, it was clear that their real crime was being somehow related to Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the JEM. Ironically, one of them was actually a member of the National Congress when he was arrested eighteen months ago.

One of them has twelve children (the eldest of them is twenty-two), and a wife back home in Halfa where he was arrested. The charges levelled against him were dropped by the prosecutor general over a year ago, on the grounds of lack of evidence. However, instead of releasing him, al-Amn just renewed his detention. He is forty-eight, but you would swear he looked at least sixty. Almost three years of prison had clearly taken the toll but he would not accept any sympathy for his plight.

Another cuffed and blind-folded detainee was actually a soldier in the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) who was captured by JEM forces, and then recaptured by al-Amn during an attack on the JEM. As much as he tried to convince the al-Amn officers of his loyalty, it mattered little as he was from Darfur – a punishable offence in today’s Sudan.

The hatred, brutality, and prejudice those Darfuris were subjected to can not be fully described and all I could think was how in a million years would we be able to achieve peace in Darfur given the treatment meted out to its people by al-Amn. And this was not just in detention facilities, the officers regularly boasted of their conquests in Darfur – burning and pillaging villages.

On February 7, I was taken to my second interrogation, on my eighth day in detention. This time I was interrogated by an officer named Fadlalla, from Kosti. The same officer who exposed his genitals to Mohamed Adil while threatening to rape him. That interrogation was stranger than the first one.

Fadlalla was playing solitaire on his computer. There were long pauses between his questions as he thought of what to ask next. His questions were ridiculous: “If you were to get married would your wife also participate in demonstrations?” Amused, I responded that I could not answer that question since I had not met her yet. Then, he asked me to to predict whether she would or would not. You can imagine how the rest of the interrogation played out.

On February 13, a student member of the Democratic Unionist Party who had previously been arrested and released was re-arrested and brought back to our cage. That was for disclosing, through his Facebook account, details of the torture endured by the detainees. He was made to kneel on his knees with his arms raised and his feet off the ground, for full afternoons. A few days earlier, he underwent a surgery resulting from a car accident. At night, he was taken out of the cage, poured with freezing water and then beaten incessantly. We sat inside the cage helplessly listening to his groans and screams.

On February 16, the last day of my detention at al-Amn Bahri office, I was summoned to a final interrogation. This time I was interrogated by five al-Amn officers whom I did not encounter before. Each of them had a role to play: the conductor; the good guy; the bad guy; the silent guy who would occasionally quip, “This does not make any sense;” and, the tough guy who made the violent threats. The interrogation was split into two parts.

The first part was trying to implicate me as the organiser of the January 30 protest (supposedly, I was working according to my father’s instructions). They insisted that we were plotting in secret, holding clandestine meetings to attack the Republican palace in order to take over power. The funniest part was when they made reference to my birthday, January 29, and how holding the demonstration on January 30 confirmed that I was its organiser. When I laughed and offered, “Why not hold it on January 29 then,” I was told not to be smart.

The second part was an attempt to solicit information about my father with questions like “Tell us your father’s secrets,” or, “Play out an everyday conversation between you and your father.” Then, they started accusing me of being an economist, as if it was a crime. They continued, “Did your father ever ask you to prepare any economic papers for him?” Proudly I answered, “Yes.” For some reason they were shocked with my answer and fell silent before asking for examples.

I gave them some: “The effects of the global economic crisis on Sudan,” “The effects of South Sudan’s separation on North Sudan’s economy,” “Dutch disease in Sudan,” and various national budget evaluations. They asked me why he would want such information. I answered that he was a well-read man and liked to keep informed. Deep down, I wanted to say, “So that he can use it against you, silly.” One of them did that for me, exclaiming to his colleague, “He does economic spotting for his father, you idiot!”

Idiot he was, so were the rest of them.

That afternoon, I was released, feeling sad to leave so many behind. We are in an economic crisis and Sudan is faced with stagflation (one of the main reasons for demonstrating in the first place), due in very large part to the colossal amount of money allocated for feeding the intelligence services. For nothing – they are a complete farce.

بيان صحفي حول احداث جمعة شذاذ الآفاق

ًبيان صحفي حول احداث جمعة شذاذ الآفاق

                       بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

ندين بقوة الاستهداف الوحشي لارواح المصلين في بيوت الله وخاصة محاصرة المصلين في مسجد الامام عبدالحمن المهدي ومحاولة قتلهم بالغاز السام واستخدام الرصاص الحي والمطاطي في مواجهة النساء والشباب العزل وهم يؤدون الصلاة كذلك منعهم من العلاج امعاناً في إزهاق الأرواح.
اننا نحذر تحالف البشير ونافع المتهالك من استهداف الانصار في أرواحهم وأبناءهم وكرامتهم لان ذلك سيكلفهم غالياً فهؤلا ابناء واحفاد من سطروا ملاحم البطولة والاستشهاد في ودنوباوي والجزيرة أبا من اجل الحرية والكرامة في مواجهة طغمة مايو وهم ابناء من اقتحم الخرطوم وحررها لثلاثة ايام وليالي ب ٨٠٠ رجل في يوليو ١٩٧٦ رداً لكرامة أمامهم الشهيد الهادي المهدي وانتصاراً لكرامة وحرية الانسان السوداني،عندها هرب نميري وزبانيته وجاء رافعاً الراية البيضاء طالباً الصفح والصلح.
اننا وإذ نحي وقفة وصمود الشيب والشباب في ودنوباوي وفي مسجد مولانا السيد علي الميرغني في الخرطوم بحري وسائر الولايات ،،نناشد ونهيب بكافة أهلنا في العاصمة والولايات تصعيد النضال السلمي بكافة اشكاله وصولا الي الإضراب العام والعصيان المدني      حتي سقوط هذا النظام القمعي المستبد. كما ندعوا علي وجه الخصوص كافة أهلنا الانصار في كل أنحاء السودان 
الاستنفار للدفاع عن كرامتهم وحقوقهم في مواجهة استهداف وعدوان تحالف الأقزام المتمسحين بالإسلام .والإسلام منهم بريء براءة الذئب من دم ابن يعقوب. 
                                                  الله اكبر ولله الحمد

                                                                             مبارك الفاضل المهدي
     التاريخ.  ٧/ ٧/ ٢٠١٢ 

Security Tips for #SudanRevolts

Below are some security tips that may help in avoiding arrest and minimizing incrimination following arrest. There is no set manual and I don’t claim to be an expert so may be wrong, over the top or not cautious enough on some or all of the points. I myself don’t follow all of my own advice but the important thing is to be cautious, remain vigilant and exercise good judgment at all times. You are no use to #SudanRevolts locked up. This is a working document so please do send in your suggestions regarding points I’ve missed, tips based on your personal experiences or if you disagree with any of what’s written. Be sure to disseminate as widely as possible within #SudanRevolts if you feel the tips are of benefit.

Telephone

  1. This is the most obvious tip of all but many don’t adhere to it anyway – don’t discuss sensitive information over the phone. Even if you are 100% sure you are not being tapped you can’t be sure the person on the other end isn’t.
  2. Try to avoid disclosing your exact location over the phone, especially if you are up to something.
  3. Points 1 and 2 also apply to texting.
  4. Whatsapp is generally considered safe but try to limit sensitive conversations to face to face interactions. It’s also good to get in the habit of clearing your Whatsapp conversations.
  5. Skype is generally safe but limit its use to laptops, computers and IPADs i.e. avoid using it on your phone (see point 6).
  6. Mobile phone devices can act as radio transmitters picking up conversations in the vicinity of the device even when switched off. Remove the phone’s battery or raise the TV/car stereo volume when engaged in sensitive conversations. Moving devices far away is best practice (sit on it if you have to).
  7. If your phone is tapped this means both your sim card and device are compromised. If you insert the sim card into another device then that device and future sim cards inserted into it become compromised as well. Same applies vice versa i.e. inserting different sim cards into your compromised device and so on.
  8. If you have to carry out sensitive conversations over the phone (not advisable) make sure both you and the other party have a fresh device and sim to use. Pre-paid unregistered sims (easily found in black market) and basic devices are best. Don’t broadcast your secret number and restrict its use to sensitive calls i.e. keep using your main number for regular calls. This avoids suspicion if your main number is tapped.
  9. NISS will go through your phone so get in the habit of regularly clearing your data (call logs, texts, footage, emails etc.). Try to use aliases you can remember when saving sensitive contacts. Generally, you don’t need sensitive emails once you’ve attended to them or footage once you’ve uploaded it so dump this data on a well hidden external drive or get rid of it altogether. If you must keep sensitive footage on your phone then store it in a password protected photo app if you have a smart phone and stow this app in a remote folder on your phone. Try not to keep social media and email applications signed on from your phone (restrict to times of use) – you can’t predict the timing of an arrest but can at least be well prepared for it.

Social Media/Email

  1. Be smart about your use of Facebook. It’s infiltrated by NISS, especially the open groups; some are even run by NISS. Increase your privacy settings and don’t add/accept users you don’t know.
  2. Twitter is relatively new to NISS but they are quickly catching on. Avoid disclosing sensitive names and future plans such as planned protests or meetings unless publically announced e.g. UMMA Party publically announced the “Elbow Licking Friday” protest at Wad Nubawi mosque. Use DMs if necessary and confine tweets to publically available and secondary information, discussions and retweets etc. It’s a difficult balancing act with the need for media coverage and updates but try to apply good judgment.
  3. People are encouraging activation of location settings on smart phones to both check that others are safe and to track protest locations. If you do this, bear in mind that it would also help NISS track you and any secret mobilizations you may or may not be involved in. I would generally advise disabling location settings.
  4. Change passwords regularly. Numbers, characters and case sensitivity throw off hacking software. Use a different password for each application (hack one and they have access to all).
  5. Some people say you should give your passwords to a person/s you trust and have them change them or deactivate your accounts in the event of your arrest. I personally don’t think this is a good idea (see arrest section), even from the point of view of general internet security. If you must, then pass the passwords on face to face (have the person memorize them) and never exchange them over the phone, texts etc.

Movement

  1. Try to travel in groups, especially if you are going to a protest. If the protest hasn’t started then don’t hang around looking suspicious, you need to fit in. If it doesn’t materialize then move out. If you know about the protest then NISS likely will too. Keep protest gear hidden when travelling to/from protests. Make sure at least one other person knows where you are at all times (through safe means of communication).
  2. If you’re in hiding or using a different car, don’t announce it. It defeats the purpose and courts suspicion.
  3. I personally wouldn’t go into hiding following an arrest. You would likely be under surveillance for a short while after and hiding would draw suspicion. It’s best to stay low key for a while after an arrest. There are many ways to stay effective while keeping a low profile (media work, blogging etc.).
  4. You will know if you are under surveillance in which case you should temporarily lay low in terms of direct activism while maintaining your everyday routine. This might sound obvious (and you should for road safety anyway) but always look in your rear-view mirrors while driving.

Talking in Public

  1. We do it, it’s in our DNA so let’s not deny it but at least be careful about it because NISS and their informants are everywhere. General guidelines are to:
  2. Scan the area – NISS are easy to spot from their vehicles, dress, unsubtle staring and eavesdropping etc. If you suspect someone is NISS or an informant then they most probably are so don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. The key is not to get thrown off by their presence around you as it will attract their attention. Most likely they would not be there specifically for you i.e. off-duty (unless you’re under surveillance).
  3. Lower your voice.
  4. Avoid talking in front of people you don’t know – don’t be trusting.
  5. Avoid talking in public transport, taxis, rakshas, amjads etc.
  6. Avoid talking in shisha places – they are full of NISS (on and off duty).

Interviews

  1. Media coverage is crucial so interviews are very important. They do pose a risk but rather than avoiding them altogether, do them anonymously (most media are fine with this even for TV interviews). This is strongly encouraged when interviewing for Arabic language and mainstream media outlets which are the ones we need to target most.

Arrest

  1. You’ll be surprised how little NISS know. Most of the information they have is fabricated or incomplete; provided by informants under pressure to deliver their weekly quotas. A significant portion of their solid information however comes from interrogations and this is where we have to careful. Don’t give away any information you don’t have to and don’t assume they already know it (they don’t). It’s not about confrontation, the key is to be as smart as possible to ensure a quick release and avoid incriminating others. A few tips and suggestions on this:
  2. If you’ve been arrested at a protest and have no priors then you can probably get away with playing dumb. If you can’t get away with pretending you weren’t actually at the protest (passing by etc.) then take the ‘accidental’ line “I was just trying to see what was going on (shamar)” i.e. you’re not an activist. They will try to terrorize you and pretend to know all about you (they don’t) for a while but being calm and convincing will likely get you released rather quickly.
  3. They will accuse you of being a communist and nowadays GIRIFNA. Even if you are, these are blanket accusations so don’t admit to them if you’re not an outed member (don’t assume yourself to be ‘busted’).
  4. They will tell you that “so and so” outed or incriminated you as a GIRIFNA member, activist, organizer, mobilizer, President-Elect etc. Stay calm even if “so and so” is someone you do know, it’s just a tactic. Challenge them to facilitate a confrontation with this person – they will back down. Likewise don’t give anyone up, they get most of their information during interrogations by instilling fear, conning you into thinking they already know or that cooperation helps.
  5. They will throw random names at you. If you know or interact with any of them, don’t assume they know that. They will throw these names at everyone. If you feel that they definitely know you have some sort of relationship with a named activist (especially if they are on your call log etc.) then make sure you always bring it back to social ties – he/she’s a distant relative, friend, university classmate etc.
  6. If your last name is in itself incriminating, try to avoid revealing it. Your first three or even four names are likely to be generic. You could reveal those without reaching the incriminating last name. This doesn’t work if they know exactly who YOU are (your face etc.). Having said that, these people are closeted and know very little about people and society anyway.
  7. If they ask who your friends are then name every single NCP (or NCP-friendly) member’s son/daughter you know. I’m not kidding. We all know some. The point is you want to hasten your release by distancing yourself from being perceived as opposition. Don’t name another activist as a friend.
  8. They will quiz you obnoxiously about your personal life. They will ask who he/she is and what kind of relations you have with them – the names are usually taken off your phone, Facebook etc. (they really know nothing). These types of questions are designed to intimidate you – they want you to get scared, slip up and have something to hold against you ‘in exchange’ for intelligence you might have. Don’t take the bait.
  9. If you haven’t been directly arrested for internet activism (i.e. from a protest etc.) then you can probably get away with not giving up your passwords. If you are an activist and have been targeted for arrest then you could also get away with not giving up passwords because your internet activity isn’t the main cause for your arrest. Use your judgment but don’t make them feel like you’re hiding something. If you’ve been arrested for internet activism then you have little choice but having secondary less controversial social network/email accounts just in case (for this purpose) is always a good idea. Some have them anyway. Don’t give them the wrong passwords though, they will check, bring you back and station you in front of a laptop until they get the correct ones. The key is not to make them feel like you’re lying or hiding something.
  10. If you’re an activist and you’re arrest was targeted then you need to keep calm. It doesn’t mean they know everything about you. They have a little, want to con you into giving away more or simply want to scare you off activism. Don’t overestimate the interrogators, they are disappointingly poor. You are more intelligent than they are and if you are calm you can direct the interrogation as you see fit but do it subtly because making them feel stupid gets them angry. They talk an awful lot and give away a lot of information (mostly incorrect) themselves, so let them talk, find a way of letting them do most of it. When you get asked questions about public knowledge events or non-controversial issues which they seem to think are important (happens a lot), talk about these issues extensively – the key is to talk a lot without really saying anything. Time will pass and they will think that you have cooperated and that they have significant information. In reality you would have kept them away from sensitive issues and avoided any real incrimination.
  11. Beware of moles in the cells. They are either direct informants or detainees that have agreed to act as spies in exchange for early release (not everyone can withstand detention, torture etc.) –they might even ask to recruit you at some point. They will act like one of you and be treated (in front of you) like one of you but can easily be figured out. None of the other detainees is likely to previously know (or have heard of) the direct informant. Most students, youth, activists, politicians know their own groups so that’s the first give away. Both types of spy will ask you/everyone lots of questions and both will be frequently called up for ‘interrogation’ (reporting back).

How Sudan Wasted It’s Oil

Oil exportation began in 1999 and opened up vast economic opportunities for Sudan – these were wasted. The following slides illustrate how and the terminal situation we’ve been left in. I’ve chosen to use slides rather than a long and dense article but do want feedback from #SudanRevolts

Click the link https://usifulness.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/how-sudan-wasted-its-oil2.pptx

Sudan Need Not Be A Failed State

First featured in Muftah on June 20, 2012 http://muftah.org/sudan-need-not-be-a-failed-state/

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Sudan is coming unraveled. Because of its social, political, and economic shortcomings, it ranks third on Foreign Policy’s index of failed states. Basic freedoms are minimal; women are oppressed and activists, journalists, and politicians are regularly arrested pursuant to laws that further state oppression. Sudan’s Human Development Index is the lowest of all MENA countries – 169 out of 187 – and poverty, estimated at 46.5% overall and 57.6% in rural areas, grows more acute by the day. Most Sudanese would gladly swap their current plight for that present within Arab Spring nations prior to their uprisings.

With conflicts in every corner of the country, the South may not be the last part of the country to secede.  Corruption is pervasive in Sudan, making the country the sixth worst on the Corruption Perception Index. South Sudan recently announced a program giving amnesty to officials suspected of corruption in exchange for their return of embezzled funds. If Sudan were to implement such a program, it would have a GDP commensurate with a middle-income country. In the meantime, we remain stratified with an economic meltdown on the horizon.

While Sudan is a failed state, does the fact that we continue to do nothing make us a failed nation? Why are we so reluctant to take a stand?

Some say the answer is hopelessness – convinced that change will never come, the Sudanese have acquiesced to the current situation, hoping at most for “reform”, while searching for solace by broadening their definition of political and economic “silver linings”. Others wait for the opposition to mobilize – in itself a hopeless prospect. Even a strong opposition (lacking in Sudan) would struggle for traction. In Sudanese history, revolutions have been started by students, the youth, trade unionist etc, with the opposition joining only once direct momentum has been built. Others fear the prospect of revolution, believing there is no better, viable alternative to the current regime. This fear is disconnected with reality – for it is hard to see how the situation in Sudan can become much worse than it already is.

I believe our inability to rise up is based in feelings of helplessness, a fear-induced passiveness often confused for apathy. Overwhelming oppression has made us feel powerless, unable to confront the dominant political system. Appraising the task as too daunting or too dangerous, the majority settle for uninspired goals that are within reach and plod on day in and day out, looking to survive and relying heavily on a durable social fabric, communal financing, and conciliatory community customs to make up for the state’s failures.

While our resilience is admirable, how long can it hold? The country’s economic outlook is dire. The IMF projects 7.2% contraction in 2012 and a 13% decrease in GDP over the next three years, assuming the country pursues a modest policy response to its current circumstances. Inflation has reached 30.4% and is still considered underestimated. The national budget prospect for 2012, which projected 28% of revenues from oil transit fees, has not been realized and will be replaced by one that forecasts sobering increases in fuel prices and taxes. Adding to this, there will be inevitable negative effects on the price of imports and import-competing goods, such as food (24% of imports), from the currency devaluation associated with the country’s new exchange rate policy,  which was announced on May 17, 2010 .

While the coming economic shocks will disproportionately affect the poor, what will happen when the rest of us can no longer “live as best we can”? How much longer will we be able to rely on societal customs to make up for the country’s economic failures?

Will we rise to the occasion and stake our claim to a state that provides for our basic rights?  Or will we continue to be intimidated and paralyzed, like a deer caught in headlights, until the decision is made for us? The answers to these questions will determine whether we are indeed a failed nation.

The recent wave of protests, which began on Saturday June 16, 2012, may be the first significant step in demonstrating to ourselves that we, the Sudanese people, are a nation that will succeed and prosper at all costs.

Sudan’s Economy And Why ‘Fiscal Austerity’ Is A Sham

Tweets compiled by Alaa ElHag (@al_loya) and first featured on Rhapsodic Stanza http://rhapsodicstanza.tumblr.com/post/26433380091/sudanrevolts-and-fiscal-austerity-tweets-by-yousif

Oil Revenue Plundered

The Government of Sudan’s share of oil revenue from 1999-2011 brought in a total of around $60bn-$80bn, that’s $5bn-$7bn a year from oil alone.

Oil represented around 65% of Sudan’s total revenue (the majority of the other 35% was taxes) and represented around 90-95% of its exports.

Agriculture which receives just 3% of total expenditure accounted for less than 5% of total exports. This in a country where 80% of rural populations are engaged in agriculture as their primary source of income, and in a country which pre-oil, was fully agriculture dependent. For example, in 1988 Sudan’s total revenue was only around $700m, mostly from agriculture; yet it had a social welfare system.

The NCP removed social welfare in spite of $5bn/year accrued from oil plus other income sources that brought total revenue close to $10bn/year. It spends just 2.4% and 2.3% of total expenditure on health and education respectively. This is justified by the NCP’s transfer of responsibility for social service provision to States. Yet these States have minimal if any own income and receive federal transfers based on patronage.

The result is that Sudan’s Human Development Index is lowest of all MENA and Arab League countries and a reprehensible 169 of 187 overall. It is therefore not surprising that poverty is widespread and grows more acute. Estimates based on the 2009 household baseline survey put 46.5% of Sudan’s population and 57.6% in rural areas below the poverty line. In my opinion this figure is distorted. The poverty survey set a poverty line of 3.8 SDG a day for minimum consumption of food and non-food items. That means the 46.5% earn less than 3.8 SDG/day but in reality that amount won’t even purchase one meal. The threshold should have been much higher and hence the numbers are underestimated.

The NCP shows off the dams, bridges and other infrastructure its constructed over the years as major achievements but these were built on loans from Arab Funds and China, not from oil. The Sudanese people will have to pay off these loans.

The point is NCP didn’t spend on infrastructure, social services or agriculture. They plundered $60bn-$80bn in oil revenues. Now that these revenues have stopped, they need us to subsidize them so they can sustain their wars, corruption and lavish and unproductive expenses. Sudan had an Oil Stabilization Account (OSA) designed to save oil earnings above annual projections (as result of unanticipated increases in world oil prices) for a rainy day such as this. True to form the OSA was completely depleted without recourse to its rules of inception and outside of the budget (unrecorded).

‘Fiscal Austerity’

This is what fiscal austerity is all about. The NCP can’t and won’t cut unsustainable expenditure, spending that doesn’t trickle down to the people anyway, so they tax us. The cuts they’ve announced are cosmetic. Wages and salaries accounted for 49% of their total spending in the now defaulted 2012 budget, of that 88% was for security and political sector staff alone. Those two sectors alone account for 82% of total national spending. Cutting a few advisors doesn’t reduce that figure, it is cosmetic and for the sake of propaganda. To get rid of that level of spending you would need deep-seated restructuring. To do that you need two things:

  1. Downsize the entire security sector by canceling the Popular Defense Forces (Jihadists) and all other illegal militias while limiting NISS to fulfilling the intelligence role stipulated in the constitution. They won’t do that because rather than remain in power through prudent spending and emphasis on development, they choose to remain through force.
  2. Reconfigure the monstrous federal, state and locality organizational hierarchy. The myriad of states and localities in Sudan receive very little funding anyway and whatever they do receive goes to Wages and Salaries with little left to actually do any work. However they won’t do that, because this patronage based and wasteful divide and rule administrative configuration keeps them in power.

As I was saying, there has not been the sufficient contraction in expenditure (cosmetic) that would be required for fiscal austerity to work. Instead they are attempting to focus on the revenue-side. But without economic diversification, subsidization by the public (taxes) remains their preferred option, an option that has been exhausted to its limit.

These measures are regressive, burdening the poor through removal of subsidies on essential commodities and increasing value added on food and basic items. The tax base could have been widened while protecting the poor, for example through increases in business profit tax increases.

In addition to taxing the public, they continue to borrow heavily; from the banking sector, the public sector and central bank. This is many through bonds that they cannot afford. This type of borrowing erodes the share of the private sector in financing because banks prefer the lucrative government bonds (high interest). To finance these costly loans, the government prints money.

The devaluation of the currency also results in more money being printed. The Balance of Payments took pummeling by secession and Higlig. You really would have expected a devaluation to come sooner. While they still had significant oil revenues devaluation would have promoted productive sector exports if supported by oil-financed investment in agriculture and agro-industry. They didn’t and they insisted on the over-valued exchange rate which following the loss of oil exports caused loss of foreign reserves (less than month of imports, if that), a premium in parallel market and foreign exchange rations.

Devaluation now without a continuous “drip” of foreign exchange means they will continue to print money to generate liquidity so hyperinflation will kick in while the parallel market devalues further.

Inflation

Inflation is the game-changer for #Sudanrevolts. In May official annual inflation was 30.4%. This is underreported. Annual inflation isn’t monthly; it compares prices in the month with prices of commensurate items during the same month of the previous year. Do we really think prices were only 30.4% higher in May 2012 than a year ago? My own prediction is that inflation is closer to 100% – think about how much you paid for your food and essentials last year and compare that to what you pay for them now (if you can still afford them).

The underreporting of inflation is for political purposes, it’s done to avoid the kind of reaction that has manifested with #Sudanrevolts. This discounts the fact that people don’t need figures to realize their cost of living is spiraling out of control. And by the way, 30.4% is in itself very high, inflation ranged between 11.3% – 18.1% between 2008 and 2011.

In addition to the printing of money, inflation is driven by increased food prices. Lack of investment in agriculture means Sudan does not produce enough to feed itself, let alone export. 24% of total imports are of food, the cost of which is inevitably affected by the exchange rate pass-through from the devaluation. Even a protective exchange rate for food items is insufficient given lack of availability and restricted access to official foreign exchange – importers are reliant on the parallel market.

Inflation is worst in the states. For example in North Darfur it’s 46% and so inflation is disproportionately felt by the poor. Most (not just the poor) have reached breaking point when you consider 30.4% inflation in May (albeit underreported) is to be compounded by even more expensive food imports (devaluation), and the removal of subsidies and increased costs of production from fuel increases associated with the fiscal austerity measures.

Fuel Subsidy Removal or Fuel Price Increase?

Notice I said fuel increase not subsidy removal. Sudan is an oil producer. Even after the split we still have enough oil to satisfy our consumption. Oil produced in Baleela, Fula, etc. is used for local consumption due to its reduced quality/low export price. Production in these oilfields makes up around 70% of domestic needs. Before the fiscal austerity fuel increases this oil was sold to local refineries at $49/barrel. That’s a $49/barrel profit for the Government of Sudan.

There is no loss involved in this transaction. It is correct that world prices are currently around $85/barrel but definitely not for Baleela/Fula quality oil, yet there would still be an opportunity cost. This is called an ‘implicit’ subsidy, no money is paid out to cover the cost (no cost involved) but some profit is foregone. Fiscal austerity is designed to make that extra profit, even though new local fuel price is likely higher than the international price for such limited quality blends.

Where there is an “explicit” subsidy is in filling the 30% consumption gap. This is by choice. Higlig (Nile Blend) is top quality ($85/barrel) and exclusively exported to maximize profits. GoS could use some of the Higlig produce to plug the gap, instead they choose to import a lower quality blend (lower price) to plug the consumption gap and reserve Higlig produce for export. The imported 30% is what is subsidized to match the $49/barrel local price – they used to cover difference – by choice.

So they basically removed a 30% subsidy and conned us on the rest. They make more profit now through local consumption of Baleela/Fula produce then they would exporting it; hence it should be called a fuel increase (not subsidy removal). The premise they’ve used means they should be reducing the price of fuel when the world price goes down but we all know how likely that is.

Solutions and Current Outlook

In summary fiscal austerity is the result of economic mismanagement, it’s not being done correctly and could have been avoided altogether. The solution to the economic crisis is solving the political crisis. From the revenue side: (i) oil deal with South Sudan; (ii) diversification of economy; (iii) return of embezzled and off budget funds/assets; and (iv) HIPC for cancellation of Sudan’s $40 billion external debt (‘zero-option’ was agreed with Sudan taking on debt and South Sudan helping to lobby for its clearance but significant progress has been stalled by reemergence of conflict in Three Areas) and to provide access to IFI concessional lending (Chinese loans are non-concessional and toxic). On the expenditure side: (i) end unwanted costly wars ($4m/day); (ii) security and administrative restructuring.

The issue with all these reforms is that they require political will that the NCP lacks. These measures are all interrelated and achievable so long as you have a politically willing regime in place. The NCP is not that regime since Sudan’s crises are of their own making, designed to sustain power. Given this reality regime change is inevitable with Sudan heading down an unsustainable path both politically and economically. The current outlook is dire.

The IMF projects 7.2% contraction in 2012 and 13% decrease in GDP over this 3 year cycle (2011-13). It predicts that surplus GDP of 2.1% in 2011 will turn into deficits of 4.6% in 2012 and 4.2% in 2013 (approximately 7% negative GDP swing). These projections from the IMF assume modest policy response moving forward. That means that if projections were based on the current ‘status quo’ situation they would be even worse. For the record, fiscal austerity is considered by the IMF to be a positive policy response measure but one that can be counterproductive in the absence of a broader package of reform.

Sudan Revolts

First featured in Muftah on June 20, 2012 http://muftah.org/the-on-going-sudan-revolts/

*with Sara Elhassan (@BSonblast)

The last four days have borne witness to continuous anti-regime protests in Sudan.

The struggles of the Sudanese people are well documented: oppressed by a totalitarian regime, bereft of basic rights, and plagued with poverty, the Sudanese have protested since the onset of the Arab Spring. Protests, which started on January 30, 2011 and have continued over the last year and a half, have not been sustained due largely to the uncertainty surrounding the separation of South Sudan, as well as poor organization and ruthless government crackdowns.

This latest wave of protests, however, feels different. Motivated by economic shocks, protestors, mostly youth and students, are vowing to continue until the regime is toppled, even in the face of brutal resistance by security forces. A mass protest to do just this has been planned for June 30, 2012, the 23rd anniversary of the National Congress Party’s (NCP) rise to power in the country. Grappling with an annual inflation rate that reached 30.4% in May 2012, the Sudanese can wait no longer for change.

The Most Recent Protests

The latest round of protest began on the evening of June 16, 2012, when female dormitory residents at the University of Khartoum staged an impromptu demonstration in opposition to increased meal and transport prices. A week earlier the Khartoum State Governor had increased transport prices by 35%.

The male students quickly joined forces and together they moved the protest off-campus, marching up to Jamhuriya Street where they were violently met by police forces. After dispersing the protest, the police raided the university dorms, beating and harassing female occupants. News of these events spread across the university the following morning, sparking a university-wide protest in solidarity. This demonstration was similarly quelled, with the police raiding and for a short time invading the main campus and dormitories.

Since then, protests have continued, without end. Today (June 20, 2012), the University of Khartoum enters its fourth day of demonstrations, across its three branches in the Khartoum tri-state area. Over these four days, the revolt has spread to other universities, notably the Southern wing of the University of Sudan, Al-Ahliya University in Omdurman, and Bahri (previously Juba) University in Khartoum North, as well as several universities outside of Khartoum State including in Shendi, Obeid and Gezira. In all these protests, loyalist NCP students have joined with the security forces and assaulted protesters with metal rods, machetes, knives, and even swords.

Locals have now joined the revolt, spurred by the student uprising, fueled by economic hardship, and provoked by the government’s ‘fiscal austerity’ program. The program, which was announced on Monday June 18, 2012 by President Omar al Bashir, includes a 60% and 40% increase in the respective prices of fuel and sugar and yet another tax hike.

Protests have spread to a number of districts including AlKalakla (AlQubba), Kober, Burri, Riyad, Al-Manshiya and in Omdurman, where yesterday, June 19, 2012, huge protests erupted in the main market. Merchants and locals, unwavering in their chants of “till when will we live in debt,” were met by perhaps the most extreme police brutality and pervasive mass arrests to date.

Today, protests markedly intensified encompassing more universities – AlTighana, Western wing of the University of Sudan, and the Higher Banking Institute – as well as major streets in Khartoum – AlAarda, AlArbaeen,  Mak Nimir, Jamhuriya and Atbara – and districts – AlThawra and Soba.

Sudan and the Arab Spring

Many have debated Sudan’s perceived reluctance to join the Arab Spring, particularly since the country’s situation has arguably been the most conducive to revolution. Many theories have been proposed and range from hopelessness and helplessness to disillusionment with the country’s weak opposition.

In reality, the Sudanese people are resilient; continuous hardships and difficult experiences have given them the ability to endure, and their strong social fabric equips them to absorb more than most. As history has shown, when they decide that “enough is enough” then it overwhelmingly is; and it seems that decision has now been made.

The country’s economic condition, which has made for a dismal standard of living, has been the primary breaking point. The majority of Sudanese will not willingly continue subsidizing a regime that has plundered 60 billion US dollars in oil revenue during the current self-inflicted fiscal crisis. They are unwilling to make sacrifices while the government uses exorbitant taxation and others fees to finance ethnically and racially motivated civil wars at the cost of 4 million US dollars per day.

The government’s now defaulted 2012 budget included 82% spending on the security and political sectors, while 49% of total cross sector expenditures went to public wages and salaries, of which 88% was for these two sectors alone. The agricultural sector, which is the main source of livelihood for 80% of the population, received just 3% of total expenditure with health and education respectively receiving 2.4% and 2.3%.

Even the beleaguered opposition, weakened by two decades of suppression and fragmentation, has started to come around. Tonight, a political rally is to be held by opposition forces at the headquarters of the National Umma Party, and will be followed by a demonstration. Regardless of their weakness, the mobilization of these political forces and their followers will help bring ordinary citizens to the ongoing youth protests and help generate more momentum and energy for continuing the demonstrations.

Media Blackout

It is uplifting to note that the momentum gained so far has continued despite the media blackout on Sudan’s revolt. The government has censored local coverage of protests and has detained all journalists attempting to report on the demonstrations, including AFP’s resident correspondent, Simon Martelli, who was arrested outside the University of Khartoum on Tuesday.

The international media has also been slow to cover the recent wave of protests. As a result, many members of the youth movements believe the international media harbors a pro-Government stance. One prominent news station, in particular, has drawn staunch criticism for its perceived lack of integrity, as it gives extreme focus to events taking place in some countries, while completely disregarding developments emerging from other states.

The Sudanese have, however, soldiered on, using social media to communicate and document events. As one blogger proclaimed, “Dear Media, just as we’ll uproot the tyrants ourselves we’ll report it ourselves”.  Indeed, Sudan is home to both the first and second Arab Springs in 1964 and 1985, achieved long before revolutions, like these, were televised.

Conclusion

The force used by the security apparatus (and loyalist students) to quell this latest round of dissent has been excessive even by the regime’s brutal standards, revealing its fears about the significance and potential of these demonstrations. Around 40 prominent youth activists, including representatives of the “Girifna,” movement were arrested on Monday at an aborted meeting at the headquarters of the Haq Party and have yet to be released.  Tear gas fired at congregations has become increasingly toxic causing asthma attacks and nosebleeds, with many hospitalized. Reports have surfaced that the government recently commissioned mass procurement of this new type of tear gas from Russia.

The government’s armed retaliation has served not only to disperse but also to injure, and has specifically targeted women. So far, there has been at least one report of live ammunition fired in the vicinity of protestors. Security forces are arresting anyone within sight of the protests.  Photographs of released detainees can be found on social media websites showing marks and bruises as well as shaved eyebrows and heads – all tactics of derision and ridicule. The systematic targeting by security forces has intensified, with the arrest of prominent activists Naglaa Sidahmed and Mohamed Boushi Alim from their homes as recently as this morning.

Developments during the coming days will determine whether this is indeed a revolution as many hope, or just another set of protests similar to ones Sudan has witnessed over the last 18 months. While the University of Khartoum and the student population have been the heartbeat of this recent mobilization, the protests have now spread to markets, districts, and other governorates.  The numbers and frequency of protests have steadily grown over the last four days. The protestors remain resilient, bravely fighting back, unarmed, against the oppressor’s brutality, and returning for more the next day. Whatever the outcome may be, the situation in Sudan has become untenable and the ‘fiscal austerity’ program, to be approved in parliament today, will make it terminal. There will be no escape from the tidal wave of popular uprising.

It is long overdue, but change will come.