Tag Archives: demonstrations

Current events in South Sudan: photos from Aweil


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Fragile services: the Juba water truck strike

The Eritrean community went on a protest yesterday, about the two violent deaths of Eritrean men in Juba in the last few weeks.  Xenophobia in South Sudan, particularly against nationals of neighbouring countries (or people who were long-term refugees in East Africa, or just look East African), is well-documented and depressing.  The consequences of the protest, though, were widespread because of another key aspect of the Juba economy.  The Eritrean community dominate the water trucking industry here, and they stopped work.

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The rumour mill in Juba

I’m trying to get back into the rumour mill in Juba, now I’m moved out to Munuki.  Nobody in the so-called “international community” knows where I’m living: I’m actually living in a relatively close, gentrifying suburb – I think of it as the Camberwell of Juba – with a good market and a good bus route.  But because I’m close to Mia Saba, which while also gentrifying is a bit more rough and ready (Hoxton?), and still befriending the neighbours and their tens of assorted children, I’d like to get back into the networks that count as 24-hour local news channels here.

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The history behind political change and the attraction of ‘turning points’

The Libya and Bahrain protests are so distressing it’s hard to read other news, but I need to sort through my electronic piles of stories on Sudan.  However, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa (as well as one of my friends’ new PhD proposal) is making me think about the attractiveness of tipping points in history.

There’s a really attractive oversimplifying element in discrete political events, as shown with the coverage of Sudan (in its North-South, Arab-black, Muslim-Christian tautology), Tunisia and Egypt, and now particularly Bahrain, with its Shia-Sunni divide.  It’s also fun to compare.  As well as comparisons and calls for ‘copy-cat’ referendums in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Balochistan (pinpoint that on a map, my friends), Kurdistan, Georgia and even Quebec, there are also more historical comparisons.

Douglas Johnson, at the Royal Africa Society’s seminar on the referendum on 4 February, used Somaliland’s UDI as a ‘lesson’ to the South about the importance of international recognition and the referendum route.  In comparison, Heather Sharkey, in talking about how some have seen South Sudan’s independence as a late-comer to the 1950s and 60s independence parties, looks at the turning point of Congolese independence and the CIA assassination of Lumumba in 1961 as an example of what can go wrong almost immediately following self-determination, particularly with international collusion and pressure.  Eritrea and Katanga have come up as comparisons in other seminars.

Turning points allow for teleological absolutism: Sharkey points out the tendency of news reports on the South to see secession as inevitable, even geographically obvious.  But seeing political events as discrete moments also lends itself to counterfactual history, as Sharkey says historians will focus on whether the referendum, and secession, was avoidable.

It’s too easy to see political events, particularly elections, as self-contained units – the announcement, the campaigning, the voting, the result.  Maybe this is why there’s been so much focus on the individual deaths that were ‘sparks’ for the Tunisian and Egyptian protests, and why so many political (and not so informed) commentators have been left saying how sudden and unexpected these events were, or being reductionist as to the causes.  It’s far too difficult to explain the history of Libya, say, and the causes and outcomes – political and psychological – of previous attempts at political unrest and change; it’s also very hard to express in a news-worthy fashion the real emotional frustrations that lead people to take on intelligence services, police and armies in this way.

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Filed under Academia, Politics, Referendum, Sudan

Quick update on Sudan protests

Analyses of the protests in Khartoum are focusing on analogies with Egypt.  This article focuses on Bouazizi’s story as a comparison to the other individual deaths in Tunisia and Egypt that helped to focus the protest movements there (it also helpfully summarises various Arabic newspaper editors’ lines on the protests); in contrast, there’s another vein of articles that reject the comparison with Egypt, or focus on NCP justifications of why Sudan is different.  The continued detention of some of the protesters is picked up on by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and some newspapers.  Putting aside Khalid Mubarak, whose SSRC article is a true classic of the Sudan Embassy information office genre, Magdi has written the only comment I think makes some headway into talking about why the Khartoum protests don’t have wider visible support.  An English-language page for Sudanese Youth for Change (SPARK) has been set up on Facebook here.

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Mohammed Abdulrahman and the Sudanese protests

Mohammed Abdulrahman died from injuries sustained from police beating during the protests on Sunday in Khartoum.  Abdulrahman, a student at Ahlia University, has been called a martyr and compared to al-Gorashy, the student that died in the October 1964 uprising.  My thoughts are with his family and friends; both Ahlia and Omdurman Universities have been closed today.

Laura Mann has made an ushahidi SMS protest map here; an update on what digital organisation is happening can be found here.   So far this is probably the best and shortest summary of events yesterday, although the figures for arrests vary.

The police seem to have been particularly proactive, as they basically stormed six universities and didn’t let 300 students out of Khartoum University.  This tallies with some personal reports on Facebook saying that there were very few people on the streets, and most of the YouTube videos show people in front of university gates.  People on Facebook are complaining about the lack of organisation, but in the face of a media blackout and suspension of internet access over the weekend, as well as a huge preemptive police operation, it looked pretty frightening to start with.  There are various numbers going around about how many people are still in detention, including two sons of al-Fadil, an opposition politician, and the government has been blocking the independent radio and newspapers in the North today.

So far Yassir Arman has been the only major politician to speak about Abdulrahman’s death, and against police brutality.  Taha has said that the demonstrations were allowed, while this has been contradicted by other unnamed NCP officials, but the only major NCP comment is from Obeid here, who says that the Sudanese protests won’t amount to anything as Bashir is democratically elected and there is popular involvement in Sudanese politics.

The site for the next protests (1 February?) is here.


Filed under Politics, Sudan