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Social media, women ‘play prominent role’ in Sudan protest actions

December 12 - 2016 DABANGA SUDAN
Protest against the recent austerity measures in eastern Sudan's Kassala on 21 November 2016 (RD)
Protest against the recent austerity measures in eastern Sudan's Kassala on 21 November 2016 (RD)

The social media have become the main means for youth activists in Sudan. Women have come to play a prominent role in the recent protests against the government policies. According to the activists, the current regime will have been overthrown by next April.

“Through Twitter, Facebook, and Whatsapp, we managed to attract attention to our actions in the country,” a youth activist told this station on Sunday.

“We have managed to break the barrier of fear in a free space that cannot be reached by bullets or tear gas.”

Several youths confirmed in a Radio Dabanga vox pop this weekend that the social media has much facilitated the coordination of the three-day civil disobedience action in the Sudanese capital on 27-29 November.

“As social media has been a great source for basic information during the anti-austerity demonstrations in September-October 2013, we used it to coordinate the civil disobedience action in end November. And we are now using it for our call for a nationwide civil strike on 19 December,” one of them said.

“Non-affiliated youth represent the silent majority of the activists.”

Last month, the youths began to call for a civil disobedience action in protest against the implementation of a series of austerity measures in the country. As a result of the measures that according to President Al Bashir were needed “to avoid the collapse of the country”, the prices of fuel and imported commodities such as medicines began to soar in an unprecedented way.

After limited streets protests by (women) students and activists against the price hikes, the social media calls for civil disobedience actions attracted the attention. Opposition forces in the country immediately expressed their support for the calls.

The authorities reacted by detaining a large number of politicians and curbing the freedom of the traditional news outlets. A spokesman of the opposition told this station on 6 December that about 40 politicians and activists are being held in detention centres of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum. NISS agents confiscated 16 print-runs in one week in end November. An independent TV channel was closed and another one received a warning.

Women, non-affiliated activists

“In addition to the use of social media, it is also new that women play a large role in the demonstrations, the coordination of the protests, and raising awareness among the people,” said an activist who declined to tell his name.

He added that most of the activists are not linked to a particular political party. “Non-affiliated youth represent the silent majority.

“However, the people in the streets are the real actor. They are the ones who carry out the protest actions and call for a comprehensive change.”

 “If the authorities’ decide to bar access to the internet, this will only confirm the success of our protest actions.”

Keyboard militants ’

Many activists pointed to the advantages of Twitter. “Large sectors in Africa and the Arab World have gained access to Twitter as well. In addition, most human rights organisations, diplomatic missions, media agencies and TV stations are relying on Twitter to follow the latest news,” activist Rashan Ushee told this station.

She said that the disruption of the internet services is the only way to hinder their work. “In fact, if the authorities’ decide to bar access to the internet, this will only confirm the success of our protest actions.

“Such steps would also reduce the government-owned communications companies’ resources to a large extent,” the activist added.

“We are using the social media in a highly organised manner,” she explained. “In this way, we are able to undermine the various attempts by the authorities to jam the upcoming disobedience action through the electronic jihad [holy war] brigades – whom we call electronic chickens.”

She said that “Before and during the civil strike in November, the state TV and pro-government newspapers made fun of us. They called us keyboard militants. Yet recently they began to complain about the fierce criticism of the regime on the social media”.

“The people in the streets are the real actor. They are the ones who carry out the protest actions and call for a comprehensive change.”

Vandalism’

Second Vice-President Hasabo Abdelrahman has warned the Sudanese for “the voices of vandalism”. He said on the Omdurman state TV on Sunday that “The hollow phrases on the social media will not achieve any development. Dialogue is the way out of all the country’s issues”.

According to Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, presidential aide and deputy chair of the ruling National Congress Party, “Sudan is subjected to an internal and external unfair campaign, aiming to exploit its resources and wealth”.

In a meeting with the heads of the Khartoum districts on Saturday, Hamid urged them not to pay attention to “the distributors of rumours.

“They exist only in cyberspace,” he said.

April

The activists predict that the Sudanese will be able to topple the current regime by next April.

“Through its political empowerment project, the regime has been able to gain many supporters among government employees and other affiliates on all levels. The current economic hardships however, have become so severe that only the beneficiaries on the first rows have remained loyal. This will definitely lead to the widening of the circle of support for the civil disobedience,” Ushee explained.  


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