As street protests sweep Egypt, neighbouring Sudan watches nervously, faced with its own political and economic malaise, opposition calls for popular uprisings and the likely secession of the south.
10,000 people have so far joined a Facebook group calling for anti-government protests across Sudan today, the day preliminary results are due out for the vote on southern independence that is widely expected to split the country in half.
The call coincides with opposition leaders in Khartoum demanding a transitional government when the south secedes and as Sudanese eye events in Egypt where President Hosni Mubarak announced he had sacked his government and would pursue reforms.
“Before any of this happened in Egypt… there was already a very volatile situation in Sudan,” political analyst John Ashworth said.
“There’s been a repositioning of political opposition forces. They’ve now woken up to the fact that they will be left to the mercy of the government in the north, once the south becomes independent,” he added.
Just last week, Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al Turabi was arrested shortly after saying that a Tunisia-style revolt, which ousted veteran strongman
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month, was likely in
Widespread economic and political discontent has provoked recent street protests although they have been sporadic, with the army keeping tight control in the capital. North Sudan’s opposition is also viewed by many as weak and divided, despite the calls for change. Officials in Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) insist they do not fear popular protest, and President Omar
Hassan Al Bashir struck a defiant tone in his latest public appearance.
“Some people believe the students will come out into the street to remove the Inqaz,” he said in a televised speech last Tuesday, using the name given to the bloodless 1989 coup that brought him to power.
“We will never run away from our country… The day we know the Sudanese people want us to leave power, we will,” he said.
Sudan expert Roger Middleton, at London-based think-tank Chatham House, cautions against the likelihood of mass demonstrations in Khartoum.
“I’m not sure if Sudanese public opinion is quite ready for
it,” he said.
“But the important thing to remember is that this has happened twice before in Sudan. So it’s not entirely impossible,” he added, referring to the popular Sudanese revolts that toppled military regimes in 1964 and 1985.
“It’s unlikely that what’s going on in Egypt won’t have some kind of impact in Sudan,” he said.
Bashir already suffers from international isolation since the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur in March 2009. Some analysts say the NCP is increasingly unpopular at home and in the Arab world for failing to prevent the largely-Christian southern Sudanese from voting en masse to break away from
the north. Many in north Sudan fear Khartoum will increasingly curb civil liberties after the expected secession of the south in July, with Bashir repeatedly threatening to reinforce Shariah, or Islamic law, if it does so.
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