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Sudanese opposition calls for civil disobedience as government raises wages - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Fuel pumps at a gas station are burned and toppled during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum on September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Fuel pumps at a gas station are burned and toppled during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum on September 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Khartoum and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Sudanese government has said it will not retract its decision to cut fuel subsidies in response to the violent protests that began on September 23.

Minister of Information Ahmed Bilal Othman said ending the fuel subsidies was the only solution to the economic problems Sudan is facing. The decision to cut fuel subsidies has caused fuel prices to nearly double.

On Sunday, the government promised cash handouts to poor families and wage increases in an attempt to stem public anger.

Political forces and youth organizations, however, have said the protests will continue, calling for strikes and civil disobedience.

A group calling itself the Reform Movement has called on President Omar Al-Bashir to end the killing of protesters and investigate the use of live ammunition against them, and cancel the recent economic measures. They also called on the government to guarantee freedoms, specifically including press freedom.

The letter, sent to Bashir by 31 leading members of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), was the first sign of division within the party since the defection of Hassan Al-Turabi in 1999.

In a significant development, the National Umma Party has issued a statement calling on political forces take to the streets and join the masses until victory was achieved. The statement is the strongest yet from any political party.

Opposition figures often accuse the National Umma Party of supporting the government, although the party denies those allegations.

The Communist Party also issued a statement on Sunday, saying “excessive oppression and lies” would not end the growing uprising, which has been moving towards potential strikes and civil disobedience aimed at toppling the regime.

The Communist Party statement added that the closure of schools, the disruption of Internet services, the stopping of satellite channels including Sky News Arabia and Al-Arabiya, and imposing impossible conditions on newspapers would not end the “people’s revolution.”

In the meantime, hundreds of activists and political leaders were detained as arrests continued. The Sudanese Commission for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms confirmed the rise in the numbers of detentions, saying the number had exceeded 1,000 detainees since the start of the protests.

The chairman of the Sudanese Commission for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms, Farouq Mohammed Ibrahim, said the commission formed a situation room last Monday, September 23, to monitor human rights violations. He said the security forces had carried out an organized arrest campaign against activists and that there was a large number of people missing, including Sadiq Kablou and Sadiq Yousuf from the Communist Party and Satia Al-Haj from the Nasserite Party, among others.

Meanwhile, the security forces have closed Al-Qarar, Al-Jaridah and Al-Intibaha newspapers until further notice for refusing to follow government instructions on the coverage of the protests. This follows complaints by journalists about the increase in the censorship of the press since the announcement of fuel subsidy cuts.

On Saturday, the Sudanese journalists’ network, an independent group which calls for freedom of expression, called for a strike by its members in protest against government attempts to impose censorship on the coverage of the unrest. The group has 400 members.

Mustafa Sari contributed reporting.

Ahmed Younis

Ahmed Younis

Ahmed Younis is a senior consultant with Gallup and a senior analyst at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and the Muslim-West Facts Initiative. He is the author of American Muslims: Voir Dire [Speak the Truth], a post-September 11 look at the reality of debate surrounding American Muslims and their country.

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