July 10, 2012
By Eric Reeves
Some seem dismissive because there is no equivalent of Tahrir Square, no assembly of thousands, no defining feature of the uprising. This ignores much already in evidence. The uprising has become geographically diverse: protest demonstrations have been reported in Omdurman and other parts of central Khartoum, Sennar, el-Obeid, Wad Medani, Damazin (Blue Nile University), Gedaref, Kosti, and Port Sudan.
The constituencies participating are no longer just university students in Khartoum, but lawyers, journalists, businessmen, and those who’ve simply had enough of the past twenty-three years of tyranny on the part of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime. The original driving force was the group Girifna: “we are fed up!”
As rapidly accelerating inflation bites deeper into the livelihoods of ordinary citizens, there is increased determination to persist, despite the threats of growing brutality. Indeed, outrage over violent tactics by the regime’s security services is contagious when family members and friends are among those targeted by tear-gas and truncheons.
What’s notable as well is the slow awakening of at least some of the traditional northern parties, including Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Umma Party, the Communist Party, and even the irrepressibly expedient Hassan al-Turabi and his Popular Congress Party. Notable also, however, is that there is already resistance to replacing the NIF/NCP with another northern Arab political elite, one or another of which has ruled Sudan since independence.
The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF)—made up of rebel groups from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile (the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North), and eastern Sudan (the Beja Congress) —has recently sent a strong signal that there can be no political “arrangement” that excludes Sudan’s marginalized people, as has been the case for over half a century. No political deal can be cut that does not fully include the SRF, or there will be civil war in the north.
But what seems most insufficiently appreciated is the scale and acceleration of the inflation rate in Sudan as the economy implodes for lack of oil revenues and foreign exchange reserves, mismanagement of the agricultural sector, unsupportable military and security budgets, gross self-enrichment by regime members and its cronies, and an unsupportable external debt of almost $40 billion.
The “official” inflation rate was almost 40 percent last month (it was 20 percent in March). But even for May a number of economists argued that the real rate exceeded 40 percent; now that fuel and other commodity subsidies have been removed, real inflation is certainly well over 50 percent and rising.
Since the regime will soon have to turn on the currency printing presses to close the budget gap, more inflation is imminent. Indeed, hyper-inflation is around the corner, and its disastrous economic effects—particularly in disrupting access to basic commodities—will be the greatest recruitment tool for the current uprising.
[Notably, bread shortages were today reported in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan.]
Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College. He has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. The opinions expressed are his own.