Protests have continued in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum against the high cost of living, during which demonstrators called for the removal of the current Sudanese government headed by Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The protests originally began at the University of Khartoum. But on Friday, June 22, hundreds of demonstrators left prayers at the Abdul Rahman mosque in the Wad Nubawi neighbourhood of Khartoum and joined protests.
In the north of Khartoum, a crowd of women closed some main streets and disrupted traffic and in another neighbourhood, police cars and public service vehicles were set on fire by demonstrators. Outside of Khartoum there were also demonstrations in smaller towns and cities.
The authorities’ response has been swift. In many cases police dispersed protests with tear gas and batons, apparently wounding some although numbers are unclear. In some neighbourhoods, eyewitnesses heard gun shots.
Police also stormed the headquarters of the Sudanese Community Party (SCP), an opposition party, and arrested the head of the party as well as a journalist who was present.
Authorities also tried to enforce a media blackout. Many journalists covering the protests reported being beaten and intimidated. This includes one French journalist who was arrested and then released as well as Egyptian journalist Salma Wardani, local photographer Mohammed Toum, local journalists Khaled Ahmad, Mohammed Ahmad Shabsha and The Niles’ correspondent Richan Ochi, who was beaten during coverage of the Khartoum University demonstrations.
Journalist Sara Daifallah, civil society activist Kareema Fathalrahman and photographer Sari Ahmad Awad were also arrested. They said the security forces were violent and that they were interrogated for at least two hours and beaten with whips, before being released, after a day’s imprisonment, on June 24.
Some sources say that the government intends to suspend broadcasting by the al-Arabiya and al-Hurra channels due to their coverage of the events.
In addition, security forces have arrested a large number of ordinary citizens as well as civil society activists; many of these people are still missing.
The official Sudanese news agency, SUNA, said security forces had control of the situation. In a press statement, police said that around 150 citizens had destroyed a police vehicle and rioted. As a result, police had had to use tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. The police denied using firearms at all and also said that there were no casualties among the public or the police.
The Sudanese Ulama, the group of leading Muslim scholars, said that government officials had asked them to help calm the situation but that they had refused.
In fact the Imam of the Great Mosque in Khartoum, Kamal Rizq, called for the resignation of the Minister of Finance. The Minister’s measures are useless,” Rizq said, adding that he held him responsible for the current economic crisis in Sudan.
Parts of the root of the problem are the austerity measures that the Finance Minister Ali Mahmoud has proposed. Critics say the economic crisis is the government’s fault because of their expenditure on various wars and conflicts.
Meanwhile others suggest that Sudan’s economy -- hard hit by US trade sanctions and various kinds of mismanagement -- was hit even harder by the secession of South Sudan last year; the southerners produced most of the oil in the former unified nation and provided the main source of foreign currency, exports and state revenues.