`Sudan candidate for next Arab revolution’

Sudan has seen a series of small protests in Khartoum and the undeveloped east against sharp rises in food prices.

Last Updated: Nov 14, 2011, 22:05 PM IST

Khartoum: Sudan could see the next Arab revolution because anger is rising over an economic crisis and government repression worse than in Egypt before the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, an opposition leader said on Monday.

"The regime is doomed ... We as opposition agreed that it cannot be reformed. You need to change, to overthrow the regime," said Farouk Abu Issa, head of the National Consensus Forces, an umbrella group of Sudan`s main opposition parties.

Sudan has seen a series of small protests in the capital Khartoum and the undeveloped east against sharp rises in food prices.

Many demonstrators say they have been inspired by "Arab Spring" uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia but have been quickly dispersed by security forces.

Veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been battling a severe economic crises since South Sudan took most of the oil production -- the lifeline of the economy -- when it split away as an independent country in July, as agreed under a 2005 peace deal.

The crisis has been exacerbated by fighting with rebels in southern border states and the western region of Darfur, draining resources at a time when the state needs to cut expenditure. Inflation hit 19.8 percent in October.

Issa went into exile in Cairo after Bashir seized power in 1989 and has become a prominent opposition figure since his return.

He was briefly detained last month after officials said he was trying to organize protests with foreign aid, charges he denies.

"The ruling party says Sudan is not affected by the Arab Spring. How can Sudan be an exception? Sudan is a stronger candidate (than Egypt and Tunisia were)," Abu Issa said in an interview.

"The volume of corruption is much worse than in countries that have seen a revolution, be it Tunisia or Egypt. A small number of people benefit from a large budget," he said.

"Regarding the repression, lack of respect of human rights, restrictions of other political rights Sudan is the worst. In Egypt there were some rights ... Here there is no rule of law. Here judges follow the ruling party 100 percent," he said.

Abu Issa said the opposition had been weakened by the dominance of Bashir`s National Congress Party (NCP) but was working out a new strategy to rally support.

"The opposition parties are weak because they have been deprived of funding, of a role in the past 20 years. The ruling party has monopolised power," he said.

The alliance, which includes veteran Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, was planning a conference to work out an alternative government program and Constitution.

"I am very optimistic. The regime cannot continue like this much longer."

Sudan different from Egypt?

Bashir is expected to unveil a new cabinet soon to bring in fresh faces after southern ministers left with Juba`s independence.

Government officials say the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia will not be repeated in Sudan and the country will be able to overcome the loss of oil revenues by expanding gold exports and developing the agricultural sector.

"Sudan is different from Libya, Syria or Yemen," deputy parliamentary speaker Hajo Gassem Al-Sayed told al-Sahafa newspaper on Monday.

"We have put in place solutions ... policies to confront it," he said when asked whether Sudan could deal with an "Arab revolt."

Abu Issa, a lawyer, said boom years with massive oil revenues had been wasted by corruption and a lack of planning.

"We made USD 70 billion from oil but where is the money," he said, citing the example of the underdeveloped east Sudan where students have been demanding more development to fight poverty.

"There is no development there, no projects for schools, hospitals, infrastructure.”

Abu Issa said the government needed to reach out to South Sudan and end tensions over violence in the border area - north and south accuse each other of backing rebels in each other`s territories.

"It is in our and their interest to have normal relations, trade coming over the border," he said, adding that regardless who was responsible for the violence diplomacy was required.

"I would not retaliate (against the South). You need to sit down and solve disputes through dialogue," he said.

Bureau Report