By Eric Reeves
December 11, 2016 (SSNA) — The international community, particularly those nations seeking rapprochement with the Khartoum regime, must put this survivalist cabal on notice that brutal repressive actions will not be tolerated and that there will be serious consequences if the regime again issues “shoot to kill” orders, as it did in September 2013. That bloody episode offered us all too full a sense of just how savage the regime is prepared to be in confronting civil society and political opposition (see “Sudan’s Bloody Crackdown on Civilian Protestors: Does the U.S. have anything to say?” The Huffington Post, October 7, 2013 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-18i/).
A failure to warn Khartoum—now—against violently repressive actions will be, in effect, a countenancing of those actions. Unctuous expressions of “concern” after the fact will be of little use to those in Sudanese civil society injured or killed by actions of the sort we have seen on too many occasions.
German, France, Italy, and the UK are the countries that have most aggressively pursued improved relations with Khartoum; they bear a special responsibility to ensure that peaceful protestors and those engaged in principled civil disobedience are not victims of violence in their effort to secure the democratization of Sudan. The Obama administration alsobears a similar responsibility, particularly given the arrests of those representing Darfuri civil society who met with U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan Donald Booth last August in Central Darfur [ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article60137 ].
Why People Are Protesting
The people of Sudan are in various states of anger, despair, and resolve to effect change. The tyrannical 27-year rule of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime has cost millions of lives…destroyed or reduced to mere survival—and that number continues to grow. War continues in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile; aerial attacks on civilians are a constant; humanitarian blockades imposed by the regime affect hundreds of thousands of suffering civilians this very day.
More broadly, however, the people of Sudan have been crushed by the rapacious, self-enriching economic policies that have brought about rampant inflation, shortages of critical consumer items, including bread, cooking fuel, and essential medicines. The agricultural sector has been allowed to deteriorate to the point it can no longer begin to provide the food necessary for self-sufficiency—and arable and pasturable land has been sold or made subject to long-term leasing agreements with Arab and Asian countries seeking to ensure their own future food security.
Unemployment and under-employment are at extremely high levels, and an astonishing 50 percent of Sudanese wish to emigrate—the figure is even higher for physicians and medical personnel, which provides essential context for the recent strikes by doctors and those working in hospitals and pharmacies.
There has been gross under-investment in infrastructure maintenance, with consequent dire shortages in water throughout the country, as well as only erratic electricity supplies in various parts of the country nominally part of the “grid.”
Much of the explanation for these economic woes can be attributed to profligate military and security expenditures over the entire tenure of the current regime, which has increased Sudan’s external debt to a staggering, unserviceable $50 billion (it was $13 billion when the National Islamic Front staged its military coup in June 1989). Beyond this, the regime is financially best understood as a giant kleptocracy, benefiting only members of the regime and their extended network of cronies: they have made the economic decisions that have put the Sudanese economy into a terminal nosedives (see:
“Kleptocracy in Khartoum: Self-Enrichment by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party, 2011 – 2015″ | Enough Project Forum Report | http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/enough-forum-release-kleptocracy-khartoum )
Mounting Political Repression
Political repression has always been a feature of NIF/NCP rule, but recently Sudan has witnessed an unprecedented number of arrests of human-rights and political figures. The highly punitive (costly) confiscation of newspaper runs has skyrocketed, and intimidation is acute.
The nexus between political repression, economic mismanagement, and current civil unrest could hardly be clearer, as the reports from Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga over the past month make clear (see below). A very recent dispatch by Sudan Tribune reports on the contents of a widely disseminated leaked audio of al-Bashir preparing his regime for what is impending as the consequences of decades of economic mismanagement come with undeniable force:
Leaked Audio: Sudan’s Bashir warns of hard days to come
November 4, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir has warned the members of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of hard days to come due to the planned government policies to liberalize the prices of commodities and scrapping subsidies, according to a leaked audio recording. Social media users have widely shared a leaked audio for al-Bashir speech before the NCP Shura Council members last week.
On Thursday, Sudanese government scrapped fuel subsidies and increased electricity price in a bid to stop the surge in inflation [this “surge” is nowhere reflected in figures that the regime-controlled “Central Bureau of Statistics releases—the CBS is essentially an extension of the regime’s vast propaganda apparatus, and yet its figures are accepted at face value by the IMF—ER] and control the collapse of Sudanese pound in the black market. “Sudan would face hard times in the coming period due to scrapping commodities subsidies that would lead to commodities prices hiking,” said al-Bashir, while the members of the ruling party consultation meeting heard chanting slogans. Al-Bashir pointed that scrapping commodities subsidies is an economic necessity and a beginning to implement the reform process. Security forces were deployed in Khartoum streets on Friday the first day after of fuel prices increase, to control any protests against the unpopular austerity measures.
There can be little doubt that what al-Bashir means by “hard times”: the days ahead in which deployment of security forces to crush civil will be the only means of regime survival. For if recent months have made anything clear, it is that the courageous people of Sudan refuse to be intimidated any longer, despite arrests, torture, extra-judicial executions, and the vivid memory of the “shoot to kill” orders al-Bashir gave in September 2013.
Indeed, the warning signs of deepening and more violent repression are already clearly in evidence, which makes even more important robust international protection of Sudanese civil society actions, most notably “Sudanese Disobedience Day” (December 19).
The world must be watching, and those nations that profess to uphold democratic values must me most vigilant. And no country more than the United States is obliged to commit—now—to the protection of human rights and democratic values. For the Obama administration has never publicly disowned the disgracefully expedient words of former special envoy for Sudan Princeton Lyman:
“We [the Obama administration] do not want to see the ouster of the [Khartoum] regime, nor regime change. We want to see the regime carrying out reform via constitutional democratic measures.” (Interview with Asharq al-Awsat, December 3, 2011 | http://english.aawsat.com/2011/12/article55244147/asharq-al-awsat-talks-to-us-special-envoy-to-sudan-princeton-lyman)
Now is the time for the U.S. and other countries to hold the Khartoum accountable for the consequences of this abject failure to “reform.” And the words must be much stronger than those we have heard to date:
International community ‘concerned’ over Sudan detentions, press curbs | Radio Dabanga, December 7, 2016 | OSLO / LONDON / WASHINGTON / BRUSSELS / OTTAWA / KHARTOUM
The members of the Sudan Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, and Canada, have issued a joint statement expressing concern at the current spate of detentions and press curbs in Sudan. The statement reads that the countries are “concerned about the detention, apparently without charge, of a number of political leaders either in anticipation of protests or having protested government economic moves. [There can be no excuse of ignorance about what is impending—ER]
“We are also aware of Sudanese authorities seizing newspapers and engaging in other forms of censorship, allegedly for reporting on expression of political views. “The arrest of political leaders for non-violent dissent risks hindering efforts for an inclusive National Dialogue that involves all the relevant political forces in Sudan in line with the African Union Roadmap, which we all support,” the statement continues.
[… “risks hindering efforts for an inclusive National Dialogue that involves all the relevant political forces in Sudan”—what disingenuous nonsense, and known by these key international actors to be such: the Khartoum regime has never committed to a true “National Dialogue,” indeed has seen it as merely a politically expedient ploy. The international community seizes upon it only because it does not have the nerve to confront the regime over its repeated sabotaging of true dialogue. The words of former Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, indicted by the International Criminal Court for massive crimes against humanity in Darfur:
“Our National Dialogue initiative is just a maneuver to provide us with political cover for a continuation of the war….”
President Omar al-Bashir himself, indicted by the ICC on multiple counts of crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, weighed in with the claim that,
“The National Dialogue is also intended to provide political cover for the present Constitution and the Decisive Summer Campaign [against rebel groups in Sudan].”
(From leaked minutes of the Security and Military Committee meeting held on the premises of the High Academy of Security (Khartoum) 3 June 2014 (Part 1 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Il ) (Part 2 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Il ) (on the authenticity of these and other minutes leaked to me by an unimpeachable source in Sudan, see http://wp.me/p45rOG-1w5 )
This “expression of concern” is not enough—not nearly enough. Indeed, this sort of familiarly tepid “concern” is likely only to encourage Khartoum to believe that there will be no meaningful international reaction to even the most violent suppression of civil society activism. If blood is spilled, then, it will be on the hands of those who choose to remain silent or mute their voices to the point of inconsequence. For what we have seen to date may easily explode into unconstrained violence on the part of the regime’s police and security forces. Unwittingly, al-Bashir has provided us the clear “early warning” of the “hard times,” the violently hard times that will be endured by the people of Sudan if they remain so conspicuously undefended—without vigorous, outspoken, and unambiguous language from the international community about the punitive consequences of violence against unarmed civilians.
SURVEY: past month’s headlines relevant to civil disobedience, increasing repression, economic collapse
(RD = Radio Dabanga; ST = Sudan Tribune; all highlighting in bold has been added; my commentary is always in blue italics followed by my initials—ER)
- Journalists held, beaten in Sudan capital| RD: November 13, 2016 | KHARTOUM Agents of Sudan’s National intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detained a journalist working for El Jareeda daily newspaper in Khartoum on Thursday. Two other journalists and an activist were held after attending a court session in Khartoum.
Journalist Mohamed El Amin Abdelaziz was severely beaten before he was taken to an unknown destination, the Sudanese Journalists’ Network reported on Friday.
- Man dies during interrogation at Sudan security office| RD: November 25, 2016 | KHARTOUM
The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service handed a family in Khartoum the body of their son, who was detained at Khartoum airport upon his return from Israel three days ago. The NISS informed the family that Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Adam (b. 1985) jumped from the fifth floor during the interrogation, and died [“jumped,” a NISS euphemism for “thrown”—security services make no effort to achieve plausibility—they enjoy complete impunity by” law”—ER]. His brother believes he was interrogated about his trip to Israel.
- Sudanese security service arrests human rights defender| ST, December 8, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested Sudanese human rights defender,Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, in Khartoum and taken him to undisclosed location, said Amnesty International on Thursday.
- Wounded students at university clash, Khartoum| RD: December 2, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Riot police ends women protest on Khartoum street| RD: November 30, 2016 | KHARTOUM / OMDURMAN
More than 30 women of the No to Women Oppression Initiative staged a demonstration against the price hikes at the Azhari roundabout in Shambat street. Security and police forces “violently dispersed them,” one of the activists told Radio Dabanga.
- Sudanese activists call for open-ended general strike in December| ST, November 29, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Hours before the end of a three-day civil disobedience in Sudan, a group of activists claimed the responsibility of its organization. They further vowed to continue their nonviolent protest against the government, calling for an open-ended general strike next December.
- Sudanese security arrests four internal opposition figures| ST, November 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Wednesday has arrested four leading figures from the opposition umbrella National Consensus Forces (NCF).
- Sudanese security arrests two journalists| ST, November 11, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has continued crackdown on press freedoms and detained two journalists on Thursday, said media.
- Journalists detained, investigated in Sudan| RD: November 15, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- “40 politicians, activists detained”: Sudan opposition| RD: December 6, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Two lawyers detained in Sudan’s security campaign| RD: November 11, 2016 | KHARTOUM NORTH
- New law on ‘information crimes’ proposed in Sudan| RD: November 24, 2016 | KHARTOUM A new lawis to be considered by the Sudanese Parliament which will include severe penalties for defamation of character and misuse of social media. [This is clearly in preparation for impending civil society actions protesting the regime’s policies and repression; it is aimed directly at such “hash tags” as:
- Sudanese women demonstrations continue as protesters trial begins in Khartoum| ST, November 21, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese women protests against drug price hikes have continued for a second straight day on Monday in several cities across the country as trial of protesters begins in the capital Khartoum.
- Sudanese police disperse women demonstration against price hikes| ST, November 20, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Dozens of Sudanese women on Sunday have staged a demonstration in the capital, Khartoum against government’s decision to raise fuel, electricity and drug prices before they were dispersed by police and security services.
- Protest in Sudan capital against price rises, brothers commit suicide| RD: November 21, 2016 | KHARTOUM Dozens of young people demonstrated on the Airport Road in Khartoum on Sunday morning in protest against the sky-rocketing prices in the country.Three brothers committed suicide as their family could not afford to buy their medicines anymore. [It is not because these medicines are unavailable; the are unaffordable because of the economic policies of the regime; these deaths are more blood on the hands of that regime—ER]
- According to economists, 65-70 per cent of the Sudanese are now living below the poverty line. [This estimate is in line with UN and other estimates—ER]
- Sudanese opposition parties join call for civil disobedience| ST, November 26, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Several opposition parties and rebel movements have declared support for the civil disobedience call initiated by political activists on social media saying directives have been issued to their members…
- Sudanese Communist Party calls for civil disobedience| ST, November 8, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) has called on the residents of Khartoum to mobilize for civil obedience and popular uprising and escalate various forms of daily resistance to overthrow the regime.
- Sudan’s striking doctors campaign to free fellow detainees| ST, November 9, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD)announced on Tuesday they have initiated an intensive campaign, with the support of many groups, to pressure the authorities to free the detained doctors
- Sudanese security seizes four newspapers| ST, November 29, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Tuesday has seized copies of four daily newspapers as civil disobedience enters its last day.
- Sudanese security confiscates copies of two newspapers| ST, November 28, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Monday has seized copies of Al-Ayam and Al-Jareeda newspapers from the printing house without stating reasons.
- Sudan closes TV channel, warns another| RD: November 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan shuts down private TV channel| ST, November 27, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese authorities ordered to close down a TV station on Sunday, as the opposition called for a three day civil disobedience to protest the recent austerity measures and the lack of freedoms.
- Sudanese Security continues crackdown on press, journalists strike| ST, December 01, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) on Thursday has continued its mass confiscation of newspapers print-runs for the successive fourth day, which coincided with the call for civil disobedience.
- Sudanese security seize five newspapers, journalists strike| Sudan Tribune, November 30, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Wednesday has continued its mass confiscations campaign against newspapers and seized copies of five dailiesprompting some journalists to go (…)
- NISS detains another teacher for organising South Darfur protest| RD: November 16, 2016 | GIREIDA
- Four opposition leaders detained in Sudan| RD: November 24, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- More teachers detained in Sudan capital| RD: November 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Pharmacists strike in Sudan capital, two detained| RD: December 1, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Medicine prices expected to double in Sudan| RD: November 8, 2016 | KHARTOUM / EL FASHER / ED DAEIN / BABANUSA Prices for drugs are expected to double in the wake of the recent economic decisions. Fuel prices soared after the government liberalised the fuel market. El Fasher and Ed Daein immediately witnessed significant price rises in transportation.
- ‘Concerns for 14 doctors held incommunicado in Sudan’: African Center for Justice and Peace Studies | RD: November 13, 2016 | NEW YORK
- ‘Arrest of Sudanese doctors won’t resolve crisis’: Doctor| RD: November 24, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan security continues questioning of striking medics| RD: November 21, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Another doctor detained in Sudan capital| RD: November 20, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Arrests at more price hike protests in Sudan| RD: November 24, 2016 | KHARTOUM / ATBARA
- Sudanese security seizes three newspapers, arrests more opposition figures| ST, November 6, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Sunday hasseized copies of three daily newspapers from the printing house without stating reasons. Press sources in Khartoum said that Al-Tayyar, Al-Jareeda and Al-Watan newspapers were likely confiscated for publishing news reports criticizing the government decision to raise fuel and electricity price.
- Three teachers detained, summoned by Sudan’s NISS| RD: November 22, 2016 | KHARTOUM / EN NAHUD
- Sudan austerity protesters on trial| RD: November 21, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudanese women protest against austerity measures, expats collect money| RD: November 21, 2016 | OMDURMAN / KASSALA
- ‘We cannot fly back to Khartoum anymore’: Sudanese patients abroad| RD: November 20, 2016 | CAIRO / AMMAN
- Increase in arrivals by sea to Italy from Sudan| RD: November 27, 2016 | KHARTOUM [More than half of all Sudanese wish to emigrate according to a poll conducted in the past year; the figure is much higher for doctors and medical personnel—ER]
- Pharmacists strike in Sudanese capital tomorrow| RD: November 18, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Members of Reform Now Movement detained in Sudan capital| RD: November 17, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- More than 10 medics, 25 SCP leaders held incommunicado in Sudan| RD: November 17, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudanese security arrests Sudan Congress Party leader in severe crackdown on opposition party| ST, November 9, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has launched massive arrest campaign against members of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, detaining its chairman and seven leading members.
- Sudanese medics to strike three days a week| RD: November 14, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Port Sudan: Spread of ‘deadly diarrhoea’, journalist summoned| RD: November 21, 2016 | PORT SUDAN People in Port Sudan have expressed concern about a diarrhoea epidemic in the city. On Sunday, security agents summoned a journalist for posting an article on Facebook about the spread of cholera in the Red Sea state capital. [This reveals one reason we know so little about the suffering of the people of Sudan’s terribly impoverished eastern states, where malnutrition rates in some places rival those of Darfur. More than half of all Sudanese in the marginalized regions are malnourished to a greater or lesser extent and according to UNICEF, “Acute malnutrition rates for children in Sudan among the highest in the world”— http://wp.me/p45rOG-1pL| ER]
- Doctors’ strike: Activists demand Sudan reveal detainees’ whereabouts| RD: November 8, 2016 | KHARTOUM / LONDON
- Demo in Atbara, Sudan quelled with ‘heavy hand’| RD: November 10, 2016 | ATBARA Security services and police reacted ‘with harsh force’when citizens of Atbara in Sudan’s River Nile State took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the increase in fuel and electricity prices. [A foreshadowing of how security forces will response to protests in Khartoum and Omdurman—ER]
- Schools students protest against price hikes in N. Darfur| ST, November 27, 2016 (EL-FASHER) – Students at four high schools in El-Fasher, North Darfur capital on Sunday have staged a demonstration to protest against the high cost of living and recent increase in drug price.
- Protests continue in various Sudanese cities against austerity measures| ST, November 7, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Small-scale protests continued for a second day on Monday in several places in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum and elsewhere against government’s decision to lift fuel and electricity subsidies.
- Six Darfuri students detained at Khartoum strike| RD: November 23, 2016 | KHARTOUM / OMDURMAN
- 25 Sudanese Congress Party leaders now detained in Sudan| RD: November 23, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- New civil disobedience actions in Sudan| RD: December 9, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudanese security seizes Al-Jareeda newspaper for the sixth time|ST December 9, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Friday has seized print runs of the independent daily Al-Jareeda for the sixth time within twelve days.
- Sudan: Newsrooms strike against confiscations| RD: November 30, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan security seizes Midan newspaper again| RD: December 6, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudanese security seizes two newspapers| Sudan Tribune, December 4, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Sunday has seized copies of the independent daily Al-Jareeda and mouthpiece of the Sudanese communist Party (SCP) Al-Midanfrom the printing (…)
- Sudanese capital responds to call for civil disobedience| RD: November 27, 2016 | KHARTOUM / EL FASHER
- Politician, student detained in northern Sudan| RD: November 27, 2016 | ATBARA / KHARTOUM
- Sudan trial against pastors continues| RD: November 27, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- School students join protest against Sudan’s subsidy cuts| RD: November 25, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Again three Sudanese newspapers gagged| RD: December 5, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudanese opposition leaders detained for slating fuel price hikes| RD: November 10, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan’s international flight prices also increase| RD: November 18, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Lawyers rally against Sudan’s campaign of arrests| RD: November 30, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Day 3 of Sudan civil disobedience: More newspapers seized| RD: November 29, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Crackdown on Sudan Congress Party: Two more members arrested| RD: November 29, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan: Print-runs of El Ayam and El Jareeda confiscated| RD: November 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- Sudan civil disobedience campaign enters its second day| RD: November 28, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- South Darfur elders demand release of detained teachers| RD: November 14, 2016 | GIREIDA
- More student protests in Sudan’s Kassala| RD: November 11, 2016 | EL GEDAREF
- Campaign for release of 11 Sudanese doctors still in detention| RD: November 10, 2016 | KHARTOUM
- SCP leadership detained by Sudan’s security service| RD: November 10, 2016 | OMDURMAN / SHAMBAT
Eric Reeves is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.