It was jubilation on the streets of Khartoum on Sunday after the release of activists and protesters who were arrested and imprisoned last month during protests against rising food prices in Sudan. Reuters news agency reported that about 40 prisoners were released, but some prominent opposition leaders were still being held.
Called the “bread protests”, anti-austerity demonstrations began in January after the government of President Omar al-Bashir announced the 2018 budget and further austerity measures. One Sudanese economist called the budget a “siege on the citizens.” The prices of basic household staples, especially flour, have steadily been rising. Several subsidies, such as for wheat and pharmaceuticals have been eliminated by the government, and the currency has been devalued in an effort to improve the local economy. Officially 1 US dollar is equal to $18 Sudanese pounds, but unofficially on the black market, the dollar is estimated to be selling for more than double that price.
The Bashir government has been investing in military as it continues fighting on several fronts - Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states. The government has formed a committee to examine the impact of the economic policies, and the prime minister has reassured the flow of basic commodities, according to the government.
In October 2017, the US lifted sanctions first imposed on the country 20 years earlier. While many blame the sanctions for the current state of the economy, it has faltered since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking with it 75 percent of the country’s oil reserves.
Street protests have been mostly quelled and there has been a virtual media blackout. Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Wednesday said peaceful demonstrations against price hikes were a constitutional right and that they did not bother the party. Kabashour Koko acknowledged that there was an economic crisis hurting the country's citizens, saying "there are arrangements, procedures and some revisions." Join us at 19:30 GMT as we discuss the worsening economic situation in Sudan, and ask in what direction the country is headed.
On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Ahmed Kodouda @NileNomad
PhD Student, George Washington University