As Southern Sudan celebrates the vote cast on Sunday that will bring them independence in July, public demonstrations in the North remain largely unreported. As the “hundreds” who took to the streets over the weekend (according to Sudanese left-wing and democratic reform groups) grow, new protests are scheduled to take place throughout the week. This movement could be a very real chance to oust President Omar al-Bashir.
Al-Bashir has been a bogeyman for the West for some time now. In power since a coup in 1989, the Sudanese president has overseen a government that has allowed consistent massacres by Islamic militia in the south of the country; the International Criminal Court has issued two warrants for his arrest on charges of genocide. Why, then, are we not offering our full support to those who seek to depose him?
The answer is, to a large extent, stability. Western governments are increasingly worried about North Africa, which has seen major upheaval in the past two weeks. Sudanese students from the universities of Khartoum and Omdurman who led protests over the weekend say they are following the lead of demonstrating masses in Egypt and Tunisia, where people have been filling the streets and public squares in the hopes of ousting similarly authoritarian regimes. The U.S. and its allies have been uncomfortable supporting protesters in those countries because of fears of Islamic fundamentalism and, to a lesser extent, the ever-looming specter of the Left. Fears surrounding the orderly secession of the oil-rich Southern Sudan have also mounted amid growing concerns that, if al-Bashir’s regime doesn’t survive until July, the transition from one to two Sudans will not be smooth. But whereas the protests in Egypt and Tunisia are in opposition to Western-backed authoritarian regimes, al-Bashir has been something of a pariah for the West, and his government is said to have strong links with Islamic fundamentalism.
For those who doubt that protest is a legitimate form of regime change, it should be clear that, in 2011, there is no way to halt this growing tide of public resistance. We must support the North Sudanese in their efforts to remove a fascistic and authoritarian regime. Readers of The New York Times were shocked to read about the tide of self-immolations among protestors across North Africa last week. We would be remiss to assume that the North Sudanese people do not carry with them a similar same resolve.
As of Monday afternoon, one student, Mohammed Abdulrahman, had died in clashes with riot police in Omdurman — about 70 more were detained. We must rally behind the student organizations that are pushing for a better country: Hope and Change, Resistance in the Neighbourhood, Youth for Change, Grifna and First Change. If no support is given to these opponents of a vicious, brutal and oppressive regime, we can be assured of one thing only — much more blood spilled in North Sudan.
Nicolas Niarchos is a senior in Trumbull College and a former arts and living editor for the News.