By Mesha Murali:
2011 has been one of the most eventful years in the past decade, witnessing a series of protests at both national and international level. One of the main events that made international news was the birth of a new country- South Sudan. This separation of South Sudan from Sudan came as the result of a referendum and a tremulous independence struggle. About 98.83% of the population voted for independence following which South Sudan declared itself to be an independent country on July 9, 2011.
This split however has given rise to various economic and political problems in Sudan (also known as North Sudan). An altercation took place between the two countries over the demarcation of border and most importantly the sharing of oil profits. South Sudan took three-fourth of the country’s oil output, even though the pipeline runs through North Sudan. Oil output was previously Sudan’s main source of foreign currency, exports and state revenue. This dispute over profit sharing has left Sudan with a huge budget deficit, a weak Pound and high inflation in prices of food and other goods which are mostly imported.
Following this economic turmoil the Sudanese government announced new economic policies to curb the ongoing problems of the country. This included the cutting down of fuel subsidies, which has been the most unpopular measure introduced, as it is expected to add to the already high levels of inflation. This move has not gone down well with the public, giving rise to a series of protests and demonstrations across the country’s capital Khartoum.
The protests that began on the 16th June 2012 mainly consisted of University students who were later joined by other groups. Certain activists, however, are trying to use this mass discontent of the public to create an “Arab Spring” style movement against the 23 year rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has played down the demonstration as ‘the work of a few agitators whose aims were not shared by the majority of Sudanese’.
On the other hand Sudan’s finance minister Ali Mahmod has been quoted saying that, “the government had no choice but to cut spending to reduce a public finance gap of 2.4 billion dollars”.
The Sudanese government instead of opting for a peaceful negotiation with its people is using violence to put an end to these protests. Security forces arrested numerous protestors, opposition members and journalists and also used rubber bullets and live ammunitions. To this the UN high commissioner for Human Rights, recently on 28th June, urged the Sudan authorities to ensure that planned demonstrations on the following day proceeded peacefully, and that these protests were no reason for the use of violence against its citizens.
According to me the decision of separation of the two countries was not well thought through, which can been seen in the series of events that have followed the split. The government of either country has made no significant efforts to resolve disputes between the two and end the miseries of the countrymen. The Sudanese government, which has been avoiding a situation like the ‘Arab Spring’ that toppled the leaders of its neighbouring countries- Libya and Egypt. Though the government’s use of violence to curb the agitations, seem to be taking it down the path that it has long avoided — one that would result in the overthrow of the existing government.