What Caused the 2019 Protests in Sudan

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Following is a brief explainer to the causes of the 2019 protests in Sudan

what caused sudan protests

Protests began December 19, 2018, in Sudan as a response to a cut in government subsidies that raised the price of foods. The price of bread alone tripled. Adding to this, a devaluation of the currency triggered inflation by more than 60%. 

  • Sudan lost three-quarters of its oil output when South Sudan seceded in 2011.
  • The US lifted sanctions on the country in 2017 but this did not produce the dramatic impact and upsurge in Sudan’s economy that was hoped for.
  • Sudan was kept on the US State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism which helped keep foreign investors away.
  • Rising inflation has continued for some time but its impact on the public at large was held in check with government subsidies. In December those subsidies were cut.
  • To counter rising inflation the government put a limit of $15 on daily cash withdrawals.
  • Fuel shortages have been reported in various areas of the country.
  • The World Bank estimates youth unemployment in Sudan to be at 27%.
  • Rising inflation has seen the savings of the Sudanese people disappear and the middle class is disappearing.

Sudan faced a long-term economic crisis as a result of both corruption and mismanagement under al-Bashir.

Less than a year earlier, Sudan expert Eric Reeves anticipated these protests and hardline response from the al-Bashir administration:

SOONER OR LATER, THE ANGER GENERATED BY THE COLLAPSING SUDANESE ECONOMY WILL BRING ABOUT DEMONSTRATIONS THAT CAN ONLY BE CONTROLLED BY ISSUING “SHOOT TO KILL” ORDERS TO POLICE AND SECURITY FORCES…

The trigger to the recent protests was the loss of food subsidies to the public. The loss of these subsidies, which previously acted as a buffer for the Sudanese people, laid bare the collapsing nature of the economy for the people to feel.

The protests and resulting government instability have upset the economic status of Sudan – already in a tight place. The original impetus of the protests was rising food prices. Once Omar al-Bashir has been removed from the seat of power which he ruled Sudan from for three decades, the original economic issues have only worsened.

In some parts of the country, food prices have nearly tripled since December. The Sudanese pound has lost almost half its value relative to the US dollar in the same time period. Fuel prices have risen, and these costs are filtering through to other parts of the economy.

Prior to the protests, Sudan’s economic woes were seen as a consequence of high levels of corruption. Transparency International ranked Sudan as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A massive debt of $51 billion further cripples the nation’s economy and international aid is limited and hindered as Sudan has been on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism for 26 years.