Sudan economy in crisis almost year after Bashir ousting
Mass protests erupted in Sudan in late 2018 against a government decision to triple bread prices. Bashir's ousting last April was followed by months of talks, against a backdrop of continued protests, that eventually produced a transitional government comprised of civilian and military officials.
But today in Khartoum, little has improved for most Sudanese. People queue up for around three hours to buy bread, and six hours to fill their tanks at petrol stations. Power cuts last six hours a day, and gas bottles for domestic use are hard to come by.
"People protested for change," said Hassan Ibrahim, who had been waiting hours to fill up his minibus - his only source of income - with diesel fuel. "There were martyrs and young people sacrificed their lives. Those who govern today need to step down if they feel they are incapable of improving the situation", the man in his fifties said.
More than 250 people were killed during the protests and unrest that ended Bashir's 30-year rule, according to doctors linked to the protest movement.
The women of Sudan's protests
Women have been the driving force behind the months of protest that resulted in the ousting of Sudan's long-term president, Omar al-Bashir, in a coup d'état. They continue to protest for peaceful change and are willing to accept great hardships along the way.
Alaa Salah, the woman who became famous worldwide when an image of her leading chants to a crowd went viral
The woman who came back: Khadija Saleh lived abroad for six years. She returned to her native country in March in order to take part in the protests for a new Sudan. "I left my safe place because I want a better future for this country," says the 41-year-old.
The activist: when security forces violently broke up a protest camp close to the Ministry of Defence in Khartoum on 3 June, 53-year-old Nahid Gabralla was beaten and threatened with rape. "My daughter deserves to live in a good country. That is why we are fighting for a democratic Sudan."
The supporter: Hadia Hasaballah works for an NGO that supports victims of the violence that took place on 3 June. Eye witnesses and activists have reported that women were sexually abused on that day. There is no official confirmation that these acts were perpetrated. "No Sudanese woman will openly admit that she was raped because of the stigma attached" says Hasaballah.
The silent warrior: during the Bashir era, there were strict moral codes for women. They could be arrested simply for wearing trousers. Mahi Aba-Yazid was wearing trousers when she was in the protest camp in Khartoum. She too was beaten. The 35-year-old believes that the reason was more the clothes she was wearing and less her devotion to the cause
The independently minded woman: "I don't want to wear a headscarf, but it is not my decision," says 23-year-old student Duha Mohmed. She would like to have the right to wear what she likes. This was one of the reasons she took part in the protests.
The optimist: Nagda Mansour spent 75 days in prison because she took part in a demonstration in December. The 39-year-old translator finds it problematic to negotiate with the military about change because of the army's role in the war in Darfur. Nevertheless, she considers the agreement to initially share power with the military to be "a beginning, not the end."
The mother: shocked by the violence, Manal Farah asked her son not to take part in the protests. The 22-year-old student was killed. When he started university, her son began to ask why there was so much corruption in Sudan. He felt passionately that change was necessary for a new Sudan. "I pray that my son's dreams will come true."
Organisations like the International Monetary Fund paint a sombre picture. The Sudanese economy contracted by 2.3 percent in 2018 and by 2.5 percent in 2019 and is projected to contract by 1.2 percent this year, it said in a report.
"High inflation (60 percent), continued exchange rate depreciation, and pervasive shortages will continue to aggravate social tensions," the IMF added.
One Sudan analyst expressed concern at the intense financial pressure on households, the state subsidies that drain public coffers and soaring inflation.
"The transitional government and the international community must move quickly to avert an economic collapse and accompanying disintegration of the transitional dispensation," said Jonas Horner, senior Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group.
There was a sense of popular discontent during a protest last month in Khartoum. But support for Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has grown after a failed assassination attempt Monday, and rallies have since been held for the post-uprising leader.
A seasoned economist, Hamdok took the reins last August. His government is tasked with running day-to-day affairs during a three-year transition overseen by a sovereign council composed of civilian and military figures.
The government has said repeatedly that it intends to tackle the country's problems head on, but lacks the resources.
"We inherited a totally bankrupt country," Culture and Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh told journalists. "We don't want charity but the means to restart our economy," said the minister, who doubles as government spokesman.
"For example, wheat production is promising," Saleh said, "but we need fuel for the combine harvesters."
In 2011, South Sudan broke away in a negotiated divorce with Khartoum that saw it take with it most of the united country's oil wealth, leaving the rump energy dependent.
The energy ministry said on Wednesday that an oil refinery in Khartoum was fully functional, but could meet only 70 percent of Sudan's petrol needs and less than half of its diesel requirements.
Hamdok has promised to hold a national meeting on the economy at the end of March and a "Friends of Sudan" donor conference in June.
The country is hoping that the lifting of U.S. sanctions on 157 Sudanese firms last week, in line with a policy shift by Washington in late 2017, will help spur foreign investment. But for now, the future is grim.
"With large imbalances and loose policies, the outlook (for Sudan's economy) is alarming without policy reforms," the IMF said.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Ibrahim pushed his car towards a service station several hundred metres (yards) away.
"We are hoping for a quick solution," he said. "Fuel, electricity and bread are essentials. We can't do without them."
Twenty-year-old Mohammed Omar also expressed frustration.
"For four months, I have spent hours in front of the bakery," he said. "The government promised a solution within a month but we haven't seen anything." (AFP)