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Your Take: A Canadian's account of Sudan's budding revolt

Categories: World

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Students gather in the University of Khartoum's western field in preparation for a protest on July 11. (Submitted by our contact in Sudan)

Momentum is building behind a youth-led movement in Sudan that protesters hope will become a full-blown uprising against the African country's longtime president Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese activists and their international supporters have been chronicling developments through the Twitter hashtag #SudanRevolts, which the CBC Community team has been monitoring.

We have also contacted a Canadian in Sudan who has given us a personal take on the events happening there. Due to safety concerns we have agreed to keep this person anonymous.

Our contact has written a series of three blog posts to shed light on the state of affairs in the country for a Canadian audience.

  • The first post, below, introduces you to the movement and how it has spread across the country.
  • The second post, which will be published Tuesday, explains the dangers faced by activists, including torture in so-called 'ghost houses' and why some say protesting is for the privileged.
  • The third post, which will be published Wednesday, explains why this movement should not be lumped in with the Arab Spring uprisings.

Please note that this is not a traditional news story. It is one Canadian citizen's perspective from the ground level.

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I've witnessed a lot of protests and attempts at uprising, but none as unique and momentous as the movement currently happening here in Sudan.

Although the government denies that anything significant is mobilizing, a strong response is starting here, a cry for democracy in the face of a ruthless crackdown.

On June 21, Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir announced austerity measures to offset a $ 2.4 billion budget deficit, which was triggered in part by lost oil revenues after last July's split with South Sudan.

The changes have enraged many Sudanese who will endure economic challenges caused by the rising cost of basic expenses - including food and fuel prices - in addition to inflation, which has been spiraling out of control and is now at over 30 per cent.

Youth lead the way

Peaceful protests in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, are largely being led by youth in their twenties.

The University of Khartoum has been a starting point for some of the most chaotic protests in past weeks as well as historically.

The recent protests were intended as peaceful, but many suspect that the National Congress Party (NCP) - the ruling party of 24 years - has its own young supporters infiltrating the anti-regime side.

It is believed that they use weaponry (tools, hand weapons, Molotov cocktails and other weapons) to discretely stage aggressive action and incite the police or security services to respond.

The authorities use teargas, nerve gas and live ammunition against protest groups, which range in size from a few hundred to one or two thousand people.

Education itself is seen as a threat, as knowledge is perhaps more dangerous than the weaponry wielded.This is why peaceful protests are nonetheless targeted.

Bystanders are also affected. For instance, tear gas often goes into the homes of non-protesters, harming everyone from asthma patients to children.

Pockets of protest

Smaller protests are also occurring in other regions of Sudan including the Darfur regions and Southern Kordofan, parts of which are zones in pre-, current and post-conflict phases after years of civil war.

Every day I receive information advising me of locations where protest movements are forming, as I have been encouraged to avoid them. I do feel bad, but I do not contribute in public spaces.

Not surprisingly, the government has recently accused foreigners, especially those abroad (who are, in general, longstanding targets of suspicion) as the main conspirers of the revolt, while dismissing the fact that locals are revolting.

It is not surprising that journalists have been quickly apprehended, detained and questioned, as well as deported if they are foreigners.

To my knowledge, there are no foreign journalists covering the protests at the moment, and local journalists face mounting dangers.

(Update: I'm hearing now that there are foreign journalists here from Al Jazeera and AFP, but my friends tell me that they haven't seen them in the thick of the protests.)

In addition to schools where youth gather, mosques have also been a target of the crackdown and the scene of larger protests recently, especially after Friday prayers.

Humanitarian organizations, often working closely with communities, have been prevented from teaching people about political mobilization, social cohesion, conflict resolution, peace, or human rights.

Part of the battle being waged by the oppressed in Sudan and their allies abroad can be described as a social netwar.

Twitter, Facebook and mobile applications are popular platforms of mobilization, especially amongst youth. These websites are helping rally bigger numbers, who may otherwise not be connected.

But modern communication is both a gift and a curse. It offers opportunities but has proven to be counterproductive when users are careless.

For me, the consequences of silence outweigh the risks of sharing this information in a blog post. My hope is that more awareness will inspire Canadians to learn more and consider the sides of this growing movement.

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