27 June 2012

Sudan's VP Says Regime Change 'Impossible'

Photo: Al Jazeera
A group of protesters demonstrating against government's austerity measures last week. The government in Khartoum has reacted strongly by illegally detaining students and activists and stifling media coverage of the protests which originated in response to government economic policies.

Khartoum — Sudan's 2nd Vice-President Al-Haj Adam Youssef has joined the chorus of officials seeking to frustrate the current protest movement in the country, saying that hopes for overthrowing the government lie "in the realm of impossibility"

Sudanese officials have been racing to downplay the street protests that have been gripping the country for the past 12 days in response to rising costs of living made worse by government's cutting of fuel and sugar subsidies as part of what officials say are an austerity package aimed at saving the country's ailing economy from collapse due to a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars.

Demonstrators in sporadic parts of the capital and other regional towns have burned tires, blocked roads and chanted slogans calling for the downfall of President Al-Bashir's government.

Police and security authorities cracked down on the demonstrations using teargas and batons.

Right groups report that scores of protesters and activists have been detained and mistreated in custody since the protests first erupted in Khartoum University on 16 June.

President Omer Al-Bashir, addressing a gathering of his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on Sunday, said that the demonstrations were the work of few "agitators and bubbles". He also threatened to deploy the "real Mujahdeen" to quell the unrest.

Similarly, first Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha said on Tuesday that the protesters whom he described as "doom-mongers" had failed to appeal to the public to support them against the NCP.

The latest attempt at downplaying the unrest came from second Vice-President Al-Haj Adam Youssef, who said in an interview with Dubai Satellite TV Channels on Wednesday that toppling the government was in "the realm of impossibility".

Youssef said that the government was not against the right of peaceful protests but will not allow "the saboteurs" to exploit them.

According to Youssef, Sudan's straitened economic situation is the result of embargo by some Western countries.

Sudan has been under US economic sanctions since 1997 over alleged ties to terrorist group and later over the conflict in the Western region of Darfur.

But the current economic situation stems mainly from the country's loss of 75 percent of its oil production after South Sudan took it and seceded in July last year.

Government opponents also say the regime has failed to make use of oil revenues to diversify the economy due to widespread corruption and mismanagement.

Typically, Youssef accused foreign elements of conspiring to use the issue of fuel subsidies to undermine the regime. According to him, the government is well aware of those standing behind the protesters.

He also denounced some media outlets he did not name for saying that citizens are revolting against the government, saying that the citizens were the ones who took to the streets in April this year to celebrate the re-taking of Heglig oilfields from neighboring South Sudan following its occupation of the area for ten days.

The Sudanese vice-president denied that the authorities are reacting violently to the demonstrations. He also denied the authorities had arrested any activist or restricted the activities of any political party.

Youssef called on the public not to heed the activities of "saboteurs". He added that "everyone must realize that changing the regime cannot materialize through violence but through ballot boxes when their time comes."

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