You can read about day 1 here.
Day 2 of the protests was as successful as day 1, in terms of turnout and stamina. The protests took place in Omdurman, the cultural capital of the country (at least that’s what its people like calling it), and was called for by several opposition parties but mostly the Umma Party. The protest was scheduled to start at 3 pm from Alahlia square near the late president Azhari’s home, but government forces got there first and drowned the entire square in sewage water to prevent people from gathering. This caused some confusion, but the crowds eventually regrouped and moved on down the streets where they were surrounded by riot police and bombed with tear gas, forcing the crowds to break up and making it easier to corner and arrest different individuals. Another protest took place in the Umma Party HQ where Umma leader Elsadiq Elmahdi had initially headed out to join the protests but was detained and returned to the HQ. Two of his daughters, a son, a grandson and several party members were arrested, and the protest was prevented from leaving the building.
Over 100 people were arrested yesterday, 50 of which were identified, including reporters for France24 and Reuters. These alongside with those arrested yesterday from the BBC, Alarabiya and several local outlets show the obvious strategy of targeting reporters and journalists to prevent coverage. One journalist, Bahram Abdelmoniem, was arrested and released on day 1, and then picked up and severely beaten yesterday.
But the icon of the afternoon was an elderly man - photographed by Khalid Babiker - walking through a cloud of tear gas, who had apparently picked up a canister and put it in his pocket and just strolled away, doing his thing. He was later seen back at the Umma Party HQ with holes burnt in his pocket, as chill as you like. Apparently, that’s how they roll in Omdurman.
The appearance of Ms. Asma Mahmoud Mohamed Taha who joined the protest was another feature, and whose party will lead a third protest today from in front of her late father’s house. Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was a religious thinker and the founder of the Republican Party, who was assassinated in the 80s by the Nimeiri regime and whose grave was hidden as were those of others assassinated by different governments.
There are some differences between these protests and those of September 2013. In the latter, movements were largely formed of university and school students and young adults, and the protests were relatively unorganized due to lack of leadership and guidance. Several figureheads had been arrested which caused chaos among the different groups, but also the main opposition parties merely cheered on from the sidelines and provided moral support rather than any actual organization. Furthermore, the excessive use of force including live ammunition by the police eventually managed to weaken the protests until they died out, and footage of (alleged) protesters burning tires and property managed to turn some of the public’s opinion against the movement.
Today, the protests are more organized with clearer leadership and some form of strategy, although it is obvious that more organization is necessary. Most noticeable is the involvement of people from all walks of life, different ages and professions, different political affiliations and those without any affiliation at all. It shows how far the government has stepped, and how much the people have been affected and are just plain sick of it all. The insistence that they remain peaceful is vital, but one cannot rule out the possibility that the police will recruit their own gangs to mar the protests and justify use of more force. It is also vital that the momentum is sustained and that protests continue with the same force – if not stronger – for as long as possible.
Regardless of what the government states – that there will be no changes or negotiations in the national budget no matter who does what – protesting will still draw much needed attention and will continue to rattle and irritate the regime even if they refuse to admit it. And for people who literally have nothing to lose, there is only one way to go.
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