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Protests against cuts rage nearly a week in Sudan [Video]

June 22, 2012 |  2:08 pm

Protests against the Sudanese government have raged for almost a week, triggered by its decision to end fuel subsidies and impose other spending cuts.

The government says the cuts are needed to survive the economic plunge the country has suffered since South Sudan split away and shut off oil production. The decisions enraged Sudanese students and others already hurting from soaring prices for food and other necessities.

Opposition leaders say the student demonstrations against rising costs have escalated into a larger call to overthrow President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, and they have spurred an aggressive police crackdown. Journalists and bloggers trying to cover the protests have also been detained, including reporters for Bloomberg and Agence France-Presse.

"Our 'offense' is we are searching for freedom, and this is a crime in Sudan," Saata Ahmed al-Haj, head of the opposition Sudanese Commission for Defense of Freedoms and Rights, told the Associated Press on Thursday, describing protesters being rounded up, stripped naked and flogged. "This is the outcome of political, economic and military suffocation felt by people here."

Those seeking change in Sudan, a repressive state accused of rampant corruption, have looked hopefully to the protests as the first seeds of a revolution like those that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia. Sudanese activists have agitated online for more foreign media coverage of the protests, believing that a "Sudan Spring" could be quickened by the spotlight.

Mobilizing Sudanese citizens against the government is difficult because they lack a clear alternative, Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-born commentator who lives in London, wrote in a piece for the Guardian.

"But an economic crisis, armed conflict along the borders, a stalemate with South Sudan on sharing the oil yield and a malfunctioning political system might all render a popular uprising unnecessary, and cripple the government from within," Malik wrote.

Bashir, who gained power decades ago through a coup, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the Sudanese crackdown against rebels in the Darfur region.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Video: Sudanese protesters march in the city of Omdurman near Khartoum on Friday. The video was posted online by Sudanese activists.