On Sept. 23, thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets of the capital Khartoum. The country’s autocratic leaders lifted fuel subsidies to raise revenue, leaving outraged citizens to deal with sky rocketing fuel prices. In response to the violent riots, the government imposed a 24-hour Internet blackout to strip citizens of social media communication and block the media coverage.
The events echoed those of Sudan’s regional neighbors in Egypt, Tunsia, Libya and Mali.
“This is our Arab Spring, this is the African Spring!” said Ahmad, an activist with the Girifina, also known as the “We’re Fed Up” movement.
Yet the idea of an African Spring is not new to Sudan or the region, explains Sudanese-American journalist Salma Ismail.
“Protests in Sudan have been on going on and off for the third year now," Ismail told Global Journalist. "But this is the first time that the government responded with such a lethal force, and the first time that the protests are this violent.”
While rebellions in the name of democracy and social freedom have seen an increase in citizen commitment, they have also left war-torn North Africa more volatile and disorganized. Unfortunately, revolutions have not brought tangible, positive changes to the people of the Arab Spring.
Sudan’s geopolitical position allows it to influence unrest across North and sub-Saharan Africa. But without sustained citizen involvement or a viable opposition to the ruling government, Sudan could follow the negative pattern of the Arab Spring. It remains to be seen if the country can avoid the issues that have halted true democratic progress in North Africa and combat cultural and political concerns unique to Sudan.
Ismail spoke to Global Journalist about the recent unrest in Sudan. To get a better sense of the wider regional impact, the show also heard from a policy analyst at the Wilson Center, and a journalist who reported from the country.
Salma Ismail is a Sudanese-American freelance journalist based in Khartoum.
Steve McDonald is a senior advisor for the Wilson Center's Africa Program.
Rebecca Hamilton is a journalist and author of the book Fighting For Darfur.