Sudan experienced protests in January-February 2011, November-December 2011, and June-July 2012. The protests have responded to a diverse set of grievances, including economic stagnation, austerity policies, and political dissatisfaction with the regime of President Omar al Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup. The protests, particularly those in early 2011, can be understood as part of the “Arab Spring,” but they should not be reduced to some parochial echo of a regional roar; the protests were and are grounded in Sudanese politics. Students have played a major role in organizing the demonstrations.
Sudan is now experiencing a fourth protest wave (Sudan has experienced protests in the past, notably in 1964, but I am grouping the protest waves of 2011-2012 together for the sake of analysis). This wave is connected to Darfur, which was the site of significant protests during the summer. The December 7 discovery of Darfuri student protester corpses in Gezira has touched off student protests in Khartoum. Protests reportedly occurred on Sunday and Monday, drawing crowds in the hundreds. Police gassed, beat, and arrested protesters on Sunday.
The Sudanese protests have not been large, rarely reaching four-digit numbers for crowds. But this round of demonstrations comes at a bad time for the regime, which recently put down an alleged coup attempt. A recent New York Times article discusses the “open secret” of “discontent within [the] ranks” of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party. During the past two years, the regime has been able to put down protests again and again, and I doubt this time will be different. But the multiple challenges the regime faces, internal and external, are serious and suggest a long-term crisis of legitimacy.