Bashir’s feisty rhetoric does not help

Sudanese president, in his first official reaction to protests, criticises demonstrations against fuel subsidy cut.

The protests in Khartoum and Omdurman – the largest yet in the Sudanese capital – were the signal to the world that many Sudanese were angry at Omar al-Bashir.

But since I arrived here, many people have told me that Sudanese have been actually angry well before.

The president berated them, saying “he challenges anyone who knew what was a hot dog” before he came to power in 1989.

His finance minister added pain to injury, saying people were angry at the government cut in subsidies because they got used to a “luxurious lifestyle”, and no one in Sudan knew what a pizza was, even though they heard of it.

People were outraged. So when the lifting of subsidies was announced, people poured on to the streets of their neighbourhoods.

Some protests were violent, but others were peaceful. Several petrol stations were looted and cars burnt.

Both the government and protesters blamed each other for the killings. Official death toll figure stands at 60, but the Doctor’s union said at least 120 people died.

The president remained silent, but everyone knew the official position.

These were not peaceful protests and the government had every right to a crackdown. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the constitution, but this was a plot by gangs of criminals, agents, traitors who had help from overseas. The blame was also put on rebel groups in Darfur.

Today al-Bashir finally spoke far away from Khartoum in el-Gedaref state.

His speech was not live on TV, but we managed to listen it. There was some anticipation.

Bashir was in his usual defiant self. He again berated the protesters calling them bandits, traitors and agents. And he hailed the pure youth who are working for a new Sudan.

The ongoing struggle is about this New Sudan. Protesters and their president don’t see eye-to-eye.

The feisty rhetoric does not help.

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