Sudanese opposition plans street protests, government threatens clampdown
January 16, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Mainstream opposition parties in north Sudan have announced plans to stage street protests against austerity measures adopted recently by the government to offset the impact of the near-certain secession of the oil-rich south Sudan.
(L) NCF spokesman Faruq Abu Issa (C) Umma Party leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (R) PCP leader Hassan Al-Turabi (File – Al-Jazeera net)
Meanwhile, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in north Sudan has threatened to take back the “freedom” enjoyed by the opposition if it attempted to “incite sedition.”
The National Consensus Forces (NCF), a coalition of opposition groups comprising the Umma National Party (UNP), the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), on Sunday said it would encourage the Sudanese people to follow the footsteps of the Tunisian people who managed to overthrow president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Friday after weeks of violent protests over unemployment and corruption.
“The Tunisians took to the street and died and they were able to free their country, That’s what we must also do,” NCF spokesman Farqu Abu Issa told reporters in Khartoum yesterday, according to a report published by Bloomberg.
Opposition parties have been demanding that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) holds a conference to write a new constitution for north Sudan and form a transitional government. But NCP officials, including president Al-Bashir, dismissed the opposition’s demands. Instead, president Al-Bashir invited the opposition to join his government.
Sudan faces an imminent breakup when the results of a week-long referendum on the independence of south Sudan region, which produces 75 percent of the country’s oil, are announced in mid-February.
The northern government, which derives 45 percent of its budget from oil, recently approved an austerity package containing cuts in subsidies for oil and sugar. As a result, rising prices of food and petro products sparked student protests and clashes with the police on Wednesday and Thursday in three towns in northern Sudan.
The opposition said it would divulge more details on the protests on January 19, according to the PCP’s Political Secretary Kamal Omar.
But the opposition has received a stern warning over its plans from the NCP’s deputy president Nafi Ali Nafi.
While addressing celebrations of Coptic Sudanese in Shandi town on Sunday, Nafi threatened to curtail the freedom of the opposition if it attempted to “incite a sedition for which it lacks courage and enough supporters.”
“It is a group capable of nothing but pelting your ears with squealing and shouting over the troubled situation and the necessity for the government to go” Nafi said of the opposition.
“We tell them that you’re building your dreams on the delusion that the Sudanese people will fallout with each other…and that you will incite a sedition for which you lack the courage and the numbers.”
The hard-line NCP official further warned the opposition that it stands to lose “the freedom and the movement” among people if it staged protests.
Sudanese people took the streets in 1964 and 1985 and ousted the regimes of military rulers Ibrahim Abboud and Jaafar Nimeiri, but some observers have expressed doubt that such a scenario could be replicated due to the weakness of opposition parties and the firm control of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on all levers of powers, economy and security in the country.
Attempts to stage demonstrations in Sudan over the last few years have been ruthlessly crushed by authorities.