Protests against government austerity measures have been spreading rapidly throughout Khartoum today, with Reuters reporting at least seven separate demonstrations in the Sudanese capital throughout the day. The number of protesters have grown substantially since yesterday, when Egyptian journalist Salma Elwardany reported a crowd of about 200 outside the University of Khartoum. 400 to 500 protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in one suburb alone.
Elwardany was detained by security forces, as was activist Maha El-Senosy (who has been tweeting under the handle @MimzicalMimz) of the youth movement Girifna (@Girifna), or "Fed Up." Both have since been released. IRIN News reported that at least 100 people had been arrested in connection with the demonstrations as of June 20.
According to Reuters:
"The police fired tear gas and then used batons as they clashed with the protesters, who threw rocks. Witnesses said men in civilian clothes also attacked the demonstrators."
Rumors that Internet will be cut off have been circulating among the protesters via Twitter, under the hashtag #SudanRevolts, as activists attempt to circulate instructions for accessing social media via mobile phone. Other protesters have uploaded pictures that appear to show protesters blocking the streets with burning tires. Reuters reported that smaller protests have also broken out in Bahri, a suburb of Khartoum, but that they were quickly dispersed by heavy security presence.
Sudan currently has a budget deficit of about $2.4 billion, and inflation reached nearly 80 percent in May. Bashir's austerity measures include devaluing the Sudanese pound by nearly 50 percent, removing fuel subsidies and cutting back government by up to 50 percent. Austerity measures were implemented in order to cope with the loss of 75 percent of Sudan's oil production after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, taking the majority of the region's oil fields with it.
Despite calls by opposition groups for an uprising, Sudan has avoided the kind of demonstrations seen in neighboring Egypt and Libya last year.... so far.