Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 29 January 2011

Sunday’s demonstration in north Sudan; realistic expectations?


By Muhammad Osman

January 29, 2011 (NAIROBI) – Sudanese youth have been actively using online media to garner support for their planned demonstration on Sunday, 30 January, hoping to replicate the scenarios of the successful Tunisian revolution and the unfolding protests in Egypt.

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Protests in Egypt

People in Sudan and across the Arab world have been standing in awe to the Tunisian uprising which toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power. The Tunisian revolution opened a Pandora box of violent protests against governments in the Middle East, culminating in the ongoing protests in Egypt whose government is now in chaos under the weight of mass public protests.

Sudan is no stranger to successful public uprisings. In 1964, the October Revolution saw the end of General Abboud’s military regime and in 1985 when Jaafar Nimeiri was deposed by the military after another popular uprising.

By Saturday evening, more than 12,000 people have RSVPed to the invitation sent by one of the four Facebook-based pages created to publicize the planned protest. Emails and sms messages have also been extensively used. Thousands of posts created in the widely popular website www.sudaneseonline.com to urge people to the take to the streets.

Furthermore, organizers have even devised a contingency plan should the Sudanese authorities decide to follow the footsteps of their Egyptian counterparts by blocking Facebook and disrupt telecommunication.

Optimism may have its merits. The mood in north Sudan is remarkably glum as the general public begins to feel the sting of austerity measures instigated by the government to offset the economic impact of the secession of the oil-producing south Sudan which voted almost unanimously for independence in a referendum this month. Hiked prices of food and petrol products have already sparked student protests in Sudan’s central state of Al-Jazzirah and Khartoum University in mid-January.

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Dozens of Sudanese women protest Tuesday Aug. 4, 2009, outside a Khartoum court where a female journalist is on trial for wearing trousers in public — a violation of the country’s strict Islamic laws (AP Photos)

Online media activism has proved to be successful in organizing recent protests in Sudan. On December 14, 2010, online campaigning succeeded in organizing a protest in downtown Khartoum against the flogging of women after a Youtube video appeared showing a Sudanese girl being flogged by the police as she screamed for help. In previous instances, online activism generated unprecedented publicity around the case of Lubna Ahmad Husayn – a female journalist who was tried for wearing trousers.

Despite growing public dissatisfaction over economic conditions and the momentum this campaign is gaining, there are reasons to believe that the chances of this protest developing into an all-out uprising are slim; here’s why.


The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) might be feeling insecure - as evidenced by the recent arrest of Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi – and perhaps petrified by the ongoing events in its northern neighbor but the NCP’s iron grip over all levers of power in the country has not waned. The party’s supporters abound in almost all public institutions, professional unions and media organizations.

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Sudan President Omer Al-Bashir

Some analysts argue that Al-Bashir’s popularity is in decline, but in fact many people in north Sudan’s Muslim conservative society still support the government and believe it to be the only guarantor of the country’s security against the perceived threat of armed groups in Sudan’s neglected peripheries.

“Better the devil you know!” a phrase often cited by many Sudanese in reference to the lack of an attractive option among the opposition whose current leaders are the same who ruled Sudan in previous eras, and failed dismally.

Mainstream opposition parties have been debilitated by the NCP which spared no efforts in creating rifts within their ranks, depriving them of economic resources and frequently arresting their leaders.


The Sudanese army, which played a major role in previous uprisings, has been systematically purged of all disloyal elements since the 1989 coup that brought Al-Bashir, then an army general, to power. It is common knowledge that the army has always been the mainstay of the regime in Khartoum, and that army is tightly controlled by Al-Bashir and his close aides – Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Muhammad Husain and minister of presidential affairs Bakri Hassan Salih.


The international community, which brokered the 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan, will likely be loath to support a change of regime in Khartoum that could lead the final phases of that agreement to unravel.

North and south Sudan are yet to thrash out a host of post-referendum arrangements, including oil revenues, currency, debts, borders and the status of the hotly contested border region of Abyei.

Similarly, the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in south Sudan will definitely be disinclined to support an uprising that could see the process of its transformation to an independent state be disrupted by a falling partner in the north.


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Sudanese anti-riot police during demos in Khartoum

With its multi-layered security and police apparatus, the Khartoum government is expected to resort to the use of excessive force to quash the demonstration. The government has successfully crushed all previous protests. News from Khartoum says that the regime has already begun to flex its muscles by staging military and police parades in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.

However, too-much force may backfire. And if the government does not use that force prudently and end up killing people, it might give the demonstration what it needs to make Khartoum go the way of Cairo and Tunisia.

The writer is an associate editor of Sudan Tribune. He can be reached on muhammed.eltilib@gmail.com

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  • 30 January 2011 01:09, by M.Zain

    Demonstration without out a central processing unit, looks like a magic recipe.While security forces in authoritative states are well trained in outmaneuvering demonstration that organized by known opposition parties ,it finds itself ,in these new cases of Tunisia,Egypt and hopefully Sudan, confronting newfangled weapon of multi-heads demonstration.Sudanese people are able to devise their own tactics after being used as bargaining chips in political compromises for long time.

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  • 31 January 2011 16:30, by Facts Check


    Imitation can not produce success. I hope the NCP craks down on demonstrators, torture many and execute some of them. These so called demonstrator are trying to copy what Tunisian did and it is not going to work.

    Where were they when Junubin were protesting everyday for more than 50 years? Let Bashir teach Northerners a lesson of brutality first.

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  • 17 February 2011 22:23, by hoxy

    Sunday’s demonstration in north Sudan; realistic expectations?
    29 January
    By Muhammad Osman January 29, 2011 (Emlak) – Sudanese youth have been actively using online media to garner support for their planned demonstration Konut on Sunday, 30 January, hoping to replicate Çelik Kap? the scenarios of the successful Tunisian revolution and the unfolding protests in Egypt. yemek tarifi People in Sudan and airport transfer across the Arab world have beenistanbul transfer standing in awe to the Tunisian uprising which toppled yemek tarifleri President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power. Tercüme The Tunisian revolution opened a Pandora box (...)Çelik Kap?

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