Protests in Sudan target President al-Bashir

Protests in Sudan target President al-Bashir

Andrew Gilkey, Diversions Editor

Protests against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party have strengthened since they began Dec. 19 in the city of Atbara.

Thousands of people joined the unrest in major cities in a new swell of demonstrations taking place on Jan. 24, according to The Associated Press. Security forces attempted to stifle the protests by closing off main roads in the capital city of Khartoum.

As this failed to deter the protesters, security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to break up demonstrators. According to Amnesty International, 40 people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

The targets of this protest are al-Bashir and the ruling party. Chants of “just leave” and “freedom, justice, peace” have become the soundtrack of these protests.

Government security forces have used questionable practices to suppress the unrest, according to photos posted by protestors. Female detainees claimed they had their hair forcibly cut by security forces.

A young doctor named Babiker Salama was gunned down as he approached security forces to ask for help with an injured person, according to The New York Times.

A spokesman for al-Bashir accused a “communist infiltrator” with a pistol for the death of Salama, however and autopsy shows pellets in the body, suggesting a shotgun was used, according to The Associated Press.

These protests are the result of economic stagnation felt by the African nation. With the conclusion of the civil war and the succession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has lost most of its oil. Inflation spiked to 72 percent at the end of last year, leaving the nation unable to meet food import prices, according to The Associated Press.

The government tried to ease the economic strain by mitigating import regulations, devaluing the Sudanese pound and other economic reforms, but to little effect. The most influential of these policies is a bill to remove subsidies for bread which will likely lead to a spike in prices, according to The Associated Press.

Al-Bashir stated in a speech this month waving his signature cane, “We say to the youth, this country is yours, protect it, and if it goes up in smoke we won’t be refugees, we will die here.”

Al-Bashir has been a controversial figure in world politics for quite some time. Al-Bashir’s government was on the U.S.’s list of states that sponsor and protect terrorism.

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the Sudanese president in march of 2009 citing accusations of genocide during the suppression of rebels in Darfur. According to Reuters, an estimated 300,000 people have died as result of al-Bashir’s Darfur campaign.

Editor’s Note: Information from The Associated Press and The New York Times was used in this report.