Meanwhile in Sudan…

Sudan’s busy capital of Khartoum is one of the many cities where the waves of Tunisia and Egypt have hit home in recent days, sparking parallel protests against the government. And just as security forces were detaining and harassing foreign journalists in Cairo today, the government of Sudan was doing the same. Twelve journalists were ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images
-/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan's busy capital of Khartoum is one of the many cities where the waves of Tunisia and Egypt have hit home in recent days, sparking parallel protests against the government. And just as security forces were detaining and harassing foreign journalists in Cairo today, the government of Sudan was doing the same. Twelve journalists were among the 16 people arrested in Khartoum today, all members of the opposition communist party. It's all part of a broader crackdown that has been ongoing for a week, since protestors took to the streets on January 30.

Sudan's protests haven't been nearly as large as those in Egypt, Yemen, or Tunisia so far. Still, there are an incredible -- and even growing -- number of similarities between the political situation there and in Tunisia and Egypt. Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been in power for more than two decades. His ruling party isn't fond of opposition; the recent elections were boycotted by opposition groups who claimed that they were set up to be unfair. Sudan is marred by similarly high rates of youth unemployment, and the economy is generally concentrated in the hands of a small elite. A security service limits freedom of expression and the press. 

But what I find interesting is this: One of the most commonly cited reasons for the staying power of the Sudanese regime is that Bashir has expertly divided and ruled -- splitting the opposition into weakened fragments that fight as much with one another as with him. Yet if Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen have taught us one thing, it is that you don't need institutionalized opposition structures to mobilize against a regime. Egypt's many opposition factions have come together -- at least over the end of Mubarak -- after the streets were filled with demonstrators, not before. Sometimes it takes just such a pivotal historical moment for disparate interests to remember that there are also goals they share.

Sudan’s busy capital of Khartoum is one of the many cities where the waves of Tunisia and Egypt have hit home in recent days, sparking parallel protests against the government. And just as security forces were detaining and harassing foreign journalists in Cairo today, the government of Sudan was doing the same. Twelve journalists were among the 16 people arrested in Khartoum today, all members of the opposition communist party. It’s all part of a broader crackdown that has been ongoing for a week, since protestors took to the streets on January 30.

Sudan’s protests haven’t been nearly as large as those in Egypt, Yemen, or Tunisia so far. Still, there are an incredible — and even growing — number of similarities between the political situation there and in Tunisia and Egypt. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been in power for more than two decades. His ruling party isn’t fond of opposition; the recent elections were boycotted by opposition groups who claimed that they were set up to be unfair. Sudan is marred by similarly high rates of youth unemployment, and the economy is generally concentrated in the hands of a small elite. A security service limits freedom of expression and the press. 

But what I find interesting is this: One of the most commonly cited reasons for the staying power of the Sudanese regime is that Bashir has expertly divided and ruled — splitting the opposition into weakened fragments that fight as much with one another as with him. Yet if Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen have taught us one thing, it is that you don’t need institutionalized opposition structures to mobilize against a regime. Egypt’s many opposition factions have come together — at least over the end of Mubarak — after the streets were filled with demonstrators, not before. Sometimes it takes just such a pivotal historical moment for disparate interests to remember that there are also goals they share.

So I wouldn’t count Sudan down and out of the Middle Eastern wave. Bashir clearly feels the same — or perhaps he wouldn’t feel compelled to detain his supposedly unthreatening opposition.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

Tag: Sudan

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