For many in Sudan, its current situation is virtually unliveable, with cash and fuel shortages galore, astronomical and unpredictable inflation, and basic services that sometimes do more harm than good
Hello all. In the essence of laying low...here is some information other people wrote =) Also posted on the SudanRevolts blog, of which I am current Media Monitor. For any suggestions for articles etc, please let me know.
Now that the international media is picking the story up a little more, there is plenty of analysis to get your teeth into.
Here is a tip: If you are on twitter and want to follow people clued into the movement, check out this list.
June 27th, 2012
Christian Caryl asks the media to cover the story of #SudanRevolts in the piece: The Sudanese Stand up
Jadaliyya provides a great analysis on understanding the prospects and challenges for another popular intifada in Sudan.
Economic hardship is joining corruption, war and crackdowns among the grievances of Sudan's citizens against the ruling regime as political forces unite for change, writes Asmaa El-Husseini in this peace in Al Ahram
Armin rosen from World Affairs asks the question, is this a Khartoum Spring?
Of all the Arab Spring processes, the violent and nonviolent opposition to the NCP could turn out to be the least predictable—and the most destabilizing—in the region. But it could also offer Sudan something it hasn’t had since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the treaty with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement that ended decades of civil war, and a pact that Khartoum has been sabotaging and violating in various ways for the past seven years. It could offer a chance for the egalitarian and democratic future that Bashir and the NCP have so violently denied their country.
So on the eve of the Lick Your Elbows Friday...what can we offer in terms of reading fodder?
June 28th, 2012
Round up of great links by Foreign Policy for some background information.
We Egyptians have learned over the past year and a half that people all over the world can make a difference, and so solidarity and support are essential for the success of any legitimate call for justice and human rights. When the international media was reluctant to upset our dictator, the words of the people all over the world on social media and their protests in front of Egyptian embassies made a difference. We are all in the same trench, so regardless of nationality, we must seek freedom for others, just as we do for ourselves.
Khartoum is braced for a "make or break" day of demonstrations tomorrow, as anger at the rising cost of living spills over into Arab Spring-style protests on the streets of Sudan's capital.
If you read one piece today, make it Amir Ahmad Nasir's article on Foreign Policy: "Sudan Needs a Revolution". Actually make that two articles for the day: Brilliant analysis on why the regime will fall.
Apparently there are "foreign elements" aiding the protests, according to the official line. (Could it be, Oh, the diaspora perhaps?)
Shadi Bushra talks about #SudanRevolts raging underneath Tahrir's shadow
The fuel subsidies will not be reinstated says the finance minister
At the same time, bombing occurs in Darfur...
Blogs and what not.
Sudan: Shaken and Stirred
It seems all my recent posts are published at 4am, with very little proofreading and more of an emotional outpouring in response to the situations I find myself in. Maybe I should invest in a diary instead... ***
So, you might find my tone in this post a little different. I have decided to jump feet first into the fray, helping out where I can and doing what I think is right. Taking the moral road, if you will.
You know what I've learnt? It is actually scary as hell.
I don't know if I am supposed to say that. I really don't. Perhaps I should be strong and courageous in the face of adversity and not be admit apprehension...but experiencing things first hand is different indeed to hearing stories. It makes you truly appreciate what *ahem* actual freedom fighters go through. It makes you ask the question, is it really worth it?
I think it is. I really do. The sad thing is though, I am not sure everyone else shares that opinion, and that is what truly scares me. For if your everyday Sudanese doesn't care for their country... why will anything change?
I like to make a habit of talking to the raksha (tuk-tuk) drivers and the shop keepers and what not to get a feeling for what the average citizen is feeling.
Let me tell you this: the average citizen is weary.
Khalas, they tell me: enough.
'Life is hard, tough, ridiculous... how can we keep living? Where is this country going??' They ask me.
I don't have an answer, because I wonder the same thing.
'Why don't you try to change things?' I ask them.
"Why should we?"
Why should we?
This is the question that makes Sudan different from the case of say, Egypt.
People are not overwhelmingly proud to be Sudanese! They don't want to do things for their country.
Oh, they will be proud of their tribe, that is for sure. They will tell you yes! I am Shaygi, Ma7as, Ja3fari... and they will defend their tribal name to the death! But defend their country? No...
I was given the example once that if you walked into a restaurant and started loudly bad mouthing Sudan, you wouldn't elicit a response. If you walked in and slandered a tribe though, oh, lord forbid! You would have to be brought out in a stretcher.
To be honest, as someone brought up in Australia I had never considered the tribal aspect of being Sudanese until I returned and Sudanese people would ask me: "So, where are you from?"
"No, who are your people??"
*cue awkward conversation endings that included answers like: uh..engineers? ..lovers of rnb?*
Odd, I thought. (They all thought I was odd too, trust me).
Why is it, that people have such strong tribal affiliations but no connection to their national identity?
Perhaps it is because, as my cousin so aptly put it, Sudan has given them nothing.
Sudan, as a nation, doesn't support its citizens.
There is poor education,
A health system that kills more than it cures,
An economy that is strangling its people,
...and even if you make it through all that, there is no opportunity for progress.
Everywhere you turn, people tell me, things are made difficult for you. My own experience backs this up completely: to register at a university or even change a tire takes an entire day, because you have to chase every.single.thing.up.yourself.
I have been told by numerous Sudanese people not to bother trying to change anything. Just get out!
Because apparently, Sudan isn't worth the hassle.
It isn't worth getting caught or arrested for, it isn't worth being afraid or losing opportunity for... Sudan, they tell me, is getting worse and there is no uphill from here.
I don't think it is going to be easy.
I don't think it is one person's fight -- or even just one generation's fight.
I don't think it will happen quickly, or painlessly.
But you know what? I think it has to happen.
I think the people have to believe that Sudan is worth fighting for. Because it is!
It is the land of the Nile, a land of culture, family, food, hospitality and tradition.
A land with promise!
A land that needs its people to believe in it.
Oh yes, the idealism of the youth, my older, more jaded family members tell me.
You will learn that this system strangles the hope from you they say.
Well, let it try.
I have learnt a lot over the past few days...
Learnt how difficult it is to control something like a "movement"; sometimes you just have to go with the flow,
How to speak as a "we" rather than an "I",
What people will give up for the cause,
What lengths people will go to in protection of the status quo...
To think, I only came to the country to learn Arabic!
الجمل بيمشي و الكلب بيمبح.... The camel walks on and the dogs keep barking...
It is one of my father's favourite Sudanese sayings. He says it to us all the time, whenever we are up against people telling us what we are doing is wrong, or "barking" at us to stop.
Stay on your path and just keep walking, he says to us, because if the camel stops and tries to reason with the dogs, it's over.
So, we have entered the second week of protests in Sudan.
Things are spreading slowly, but I think I have only just begun to realise what an enormous mission we have embarked on. It doesn't make it any less worthwhile, on the contrary, it makes me realise how much more seriously it needs to be taken.
We -- the generation pushing for this change -- haven't seen a revolution in our lifetimes. The last time anything changed was a good score and three years ago, so we are new to this whole situation. We've seen change in our neighbours, and we want that for ourselves as well -- I mean, why shouldn't Sudan be free and fair?
I do think something is desperately wrong in this country, and I do think things have to change. However, I think it is folly not to learn from what is happening around us and what has happened in the past.
Things have been bad before: How did they change and why didn't the change stick?
I often wonder how and why authorities in places such as Sudan get away with so much, when that doesn't happen to the same extent elsewhere around the world. It isn't because the Sudanese people are inherently different? I would ask myself.
No, it isn't. One of the reasons is because there is zero accountability.
Technically, Sudan is a democracy: There were elections in 2010 where the current government was brought into power. Why! people ask, did the public vote for the status quo?!
Well firstly one must ask, how many voted? Something like only 9 million people registered for the voting, out of the what, 43 million inhabitants? 20% of the population. Which meant that the 73% winning margin amounted to about 14% of the actual population. Not decisive win by a long shot, but hey, Jimmy Carter said it was recognisable.
So, the process was there for people to make change. Why didn't they take up that opportunity?? Why didn't more people register? For a variety of reasons, one of which was a despair that their vote would amount for nothing. By not registering and voting, it became a self fulfilling prophecy.
The other main reason though, I personally think, is because there was no alternative...but that is a blog post for another time.
So, people believe their vote would amount to nothing. Why? Perhaps because they thought the votes would be doctored. Why would they let their rulers get away with that?
Well, who would stop them?
When you grow used to an oppressive regime, their omniscience becomes larger than life and the fear itself is enough to keep you from doing anything. That, and of course the actual repercussions that do occur, because the fear isn't based on fantasy...
Ah, the crux of the issue. There is noone to hold the authority accountable. The international community can't seem to, it legitimised them! The reason outside governments do things for the people is because they know the people can remove them if they are unhappy; the people hold them accountable! Here, that is not the case...yet.
This has to change if there is to be any lasting progress.
The question is, how do you make that happen?
If I knew, I wouldn't be here in front of a screen asking you that question.
Yes, it is strange for me to harp on about this idea of the votes and democracy when there are ***things happening on the street!!!*** however I think it is important for some of us to take a step back and see the big picture. People on the street is but one part of a puzzle in rebuilding a community. The rest of the recipe includes a large scoop of organisation, a few dollops of realism, two cups of long term strategy and faith; let that simmer in a pot of experience and lessons from the past and we will see how it turns out.
I knew my grandmother's cooking lessons would be useful...
The past couple of days have been interesting indeed. Having watched the rise of the Arab spring through TV sets from the beginning of last year, I had always lamented "not being there" and getting involved. The thought of history being made in "my" part of the world while I was in another country simply watching frustrated me -- I itched to do something.
It is fortunate (or ironic) then that in my last few weeks in Sudan, people have taken to the streets responding to the recent hikes in costs. What started as small scale protests in the University of Khartoum (by mostly women students actually) has now spread throughout the main city...
(Updates can be found on twitter under the #SudanRevolts hashtag or here)
Here is my chance! I thought immediately, when I started to hear the news and the rumblings on the streets...
Here is my opportunity to be a part of something that could actually make a tangible difference.
Yeh. I (to the dismay of family and friends) am the kind of person who walks toward a fight rather than away from it, so I can find out what is going on and see if I can help. Like a moth to the fire, I was drawn towards the drama, the intoxicating call for change that I had so desperately sought during my time here.
I posted on facebook, consulted with family, starting mentally critically analysing what was going on, glued to my phone and laptop with innumerable twitter/facebook/google reader/blog tabs open, trying to figure out what was happening and where things needed to be done...
I had a number of friends and family members give me various pieces of advice over the last few days; some said to "stay sharp, courageous and keep writing/getting involved", some cautioned me to stay safe, and a couple (some of whom had lived in developing countries) suggested that I get the hell out and pick my battles wisely.
...and at about Fajr this morning (around sunrise), after I had spent hours crafting Arabic posts to add to the Girifna (rough translation: "We are disgusted/We have had enough") facebook site, the main opposition to the ruling NCP, something occurred to me. Perhaps this was one of those cases where I should listen to the sage advice of those around me.
Reading the posts and comments and seeing the videos, it is clear that there is a lack of real direction, and that people needed organisation and support from a long term strategy point of view... but am I the best placed person to provide that? I guess the fact that it takes me half an hour to read a long post in Arabic (my proficiency in proper Arabic still requires some practice) when these were protests and discussions being conducted in Arabic was one of the indicators that perhaps not.
Moreover, I am going home rather soon...and I want to be able to actually leave the country. If I get involved in activities that are likely to get me arrested or detained and I don't have the support of a party or group, it is unlikely I would find my way out easily and if I did, coming back into the country safely would be nigh impossible.
The thing that did encourage me though was that there were people talking about the very ideas I was suggesting; organising protests, making sure things weren't destroyed etc. What is still missing is the talk of an alternative and a long term strategy... but who is going to trust a random newcomer talking about long term strategy?
Even to me that sounds suspicious: with everyone looking over their shoulder for the NISS (the national security forces), I can understand why organisers didn't jump at the opportunity to bring me into the fold.
This doesn't mean that I am giving up (ugh, what a negatively loaded phrase), I think this is a case of picking my battles. Perhaps what I can do is write rather than march recklessly, raising awareness for those outside the loop, perhaps an information relay rather than an organiser. It doesn't seem like much, and it is galling for me to be here while all this is happening and not out on the street making my voice heard... but it is a case of recognising that there are more effective ways of making my voice heard and contributing to the conversation.
Like the engineer that I am, I think I will focus on efficiency rather than pure brute force: trying to add to the conversation intelligently rather than just add noise, provide a different perspective and different level of analysis and see if perhaps there are others there that are interesting looking at how sustainable, long term change can be established from the current happenings.
It is the responsibility of the educated to translate the cries of the people into something more than just destruction and the statement of frustration -- otherwise money, livelihood and eventually lives will be lost in vain.
If I go out on the street, I am just one more dispensable Sudanese life to the NISS.
After all, as a few friends said: I'm probably more useful alive than missing, or dead.
Sudan inches closer to an Arab Spring (apparently)
Sudan Revolts Twitter Feed
So, the Sudanese people have decided to take to the streets. Today, the "Duststorm Friday" movement started (Kataha AlJum3a in Arabic) and large numbers of protesters took to the streets. Today, unlike the past week, people became destructive, people are starting to get heated and things are getting a little more dangerous.
Protests have reached the main streets of Khartoum (the capital), Bahri and surrounding areas and suburbs.
What is missing from these protests though, is coherence and direction.
At the moment, the Sudanese people are taking to the streets, why?
Because things are expensive.
The official figure for inflation is something like 30.4% monthly. That is the official figure. (Source)
A few days ago, they raised the exchange rate from 2.8 SDG to a little over 4 SDG.
How on earth are people supposed to live their lives (and run businesses!) with that type of uncertainty? The cost of my trip to uni essentially doubled in a day.
So you can understand the frustration of the people. Hell, I am frustrated and I am not working or supporting a family here.
However, I am not sure people are going about the protests in the more effective way. Why?
1. There are no demands. If you look at the pictures of protesters, they are just storming streets, yelling for "change of authority" and burning things. There are no placards, no lists of criteria, no indication of what people actually want.
2. There is no respect for property. For actual regime change (if that is what is desired), there has to be a critical mass of people who want things to change. You are not going to win over the general population if you are burning their buses and clogging up their roads! Destructive behaviour is the worst kind of behaviour as it gives the authorities the excuse to arrest you and criminalise you on a legal basis -- because what is being done is criminal. What people should be doing is peacefully protesting, demanding their rights and voicing their opinions; that way noone has the legal right to touch them.
3. There doesn't seem to be a strategic outlook towards the future. When I spent time talking to people (before the protests) about why they didn't want change, their simple answer was because they couldn't see an alternative. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't" they said. That still hasn't changed -- people are asking for a regime change but they haven't given an alternative.
Furthermore, the Sudanese have the example of Egypt to learn from - overthrowing your president is one thing, but that doesn't mean you have changed the system. For systematic change, things need to be planned, organised, strategically thought through...and none of that is happening.
For these reasons (and more, but I want to keep this succinct), I am not sure what the benefit of the protests is going to be. Yes, the Sudanese are a revolutionary people -- they have had at least two coups since independence -- however, that does not mean they are ready or that this will be a simple and easy matter. To be honest, I already am hearing all sorts of stories; students from my cousins' universities gone missing (picked up by the army/security forces and taken to who-knows-where), killings (though unconfirmed) and beating of protesters; the general pandemonium in cases like these. What is sad though is that all this may happen in vain, if not done properly.
However, how does one go about organising something as amorphous as this? Already the groups exist, and clearly this is the domain of the of political parties in universities and such... so providing them direction or suggestions may be the way to go. Perusing (read: obsessing over) the Facebook and Twitter feeds gives me some hope, but all the talk of strategy and planning doesn't seem to reach the people making the announcements and decisions.
It all seems very reactionary at the moment, when it should be proactive and strategic.
...and I am not yet certain what I can do to help, but hell, that's not going to stop me at least trying to somehow be constructive.