Dr. Qotbi Mahdi, an official from the ruling National Congress Party, issued scathing criticisms against Sadiq al-Mahdi, the president of the National Umma Party. Qotbi challenged him to bring the Arab Spring to the country, bring down the regime and return to power. He also described the gathering of the Islamic movement’s fighters as evidence that the bases are passionate, and he asserted that there is no disagreement between the National Congress Party and the supporters of the People’s Congress. He said, “The differences are among the leaders, not the members... The gathering of the Islamist movement’s fighters is clear evidence that there is a desire for unity.”
Qotbi said that the people have not responded to the opposition’s call “because the people have heard them and they have not put forward an economic proposal or a political practice that was better than the [Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation].” He added, “They will not be able to reproduce the Arab Spring as long as they have not proven that they can rule Sudan.” Qotbi categorically ruled out an uprising that would bring down the regime, saying, “The people have experienced the opposition and they will not fight to bring down the regime just to bring those types to power, like what happened after [President Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri].” He added, “[The opposition] has introduced many catastrophes to the country.”
Rabih Abdel al-Ati Obeid, an official in Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, considered the demonstrations that started in the middle of last month to be “pathetically” small and representative of nothing. He added, while laughing, “I do not think that these demonstrations have an effect on public opinion. A few people here and there, others at one mosque. What is this? It’s ridiculous!”
He continued: “We cannot compare what is happening here and what a few individuals are doing with what happened in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya. . . . In fact, it is all propaganda, political propaganda rather than a real protest.” He then described the movement as being “nothing.”
On the other hand, the president of the Supreme Council for Press and Publications Professor Ali Shimo acknowledged that there were significant problems facing the press because of high customs and printing costs, along with meager incomes. He said that the printed press is in danger and that a newspaper has come to cost between 130 and 140 piastres, pointing out that newspapers are passing the cost on to advertisers.
Shimo said that the press is in decline and if no solution is found then they will move to electronic publication. Another option is to merge some of the newspapers. In an interview in front of a media training session, he revealed efforts to resolve the problem by maintaining the basic structure of the newspaper.Shimo also suggested the need to exempt the newspapers from taxation. He added, “If newspapers increase the advertising rate then [advertising] will drop. And if the papers wanted to solve the problem by increasing the copy price to 2 pounds then the citizen will be unable to buy newspapers.”
After Al-Ahdath newspapers declared bankruptcy and shut down, Al-Sudani newspaper, which is headed by businessman Jamal al-Wali, fired its founder Mahjoub Aarwa and its deputy editor-in-chief. Additionally, 13 journalists and department heads, including those who were part of the newspaper’s founding, were also fired. The newspaper justified its move by saying that it is facing the specter of closure because of economic pressures and an inability to pay salaries.
In the context of economic pressures, the bakeries union protested the commerce minister’s decision to set the price for a loaf of bread at 25 piastres. After a meeting with the minister, the union formed a joint committee that included the state of Khartoum, and Specifications Committee and the Commission on Economic Security to review the price of bread. The union agreed to set the weight of a loaf of bread at 70 grams, but did not agree on the price. The secretary general of the federation of bakeries, Adel Mirghani, said that the stated prices do not cover the costs and expenses of the bakeries, indicating that the high production inputs created a need for the prices to be reviewed.
It should be noted that one Sudanese pound was enough to buy four loaves of bread before the new price. Now, one Sudanese pound can only purchase three loaves, and this number may still be reduced after the union meets with the minister.
The president of the University of Khartoum, Professor Sadiq Mustafa Hayati, denied that he had submitted his resignation but acknowledged that he did threaten to resign. He refused to say why he threatened to resign and stressed that he rejects the [idea] of the police entering campus. He clarified that some officers acted in excess, as they were “not familiar with the agreement between [the university] and the police.”
In a news conference, Hayati said that the students were expressing their political views on campus grounds “and when they wanted to go out to the street, the police prevented them.” He said that since then, a limited number of students have been demonstrating and arguments among the students have even led to some clashes.
The university’s president strongly denied that the university was closed for security reasons, stressing that the curriculum that was prepared by the Council of College Deans has been completed at many colleges “because the curriculum was designed so that the colleges can close for Ramadan, as has been customary.”
On July 16, about 300 Sudanese lawyers demonstrated to demand that the security forces refrain from using force against peaceful protests. Witnesses said that the lawyers, most of whom are linked to opposition parties, gathered in front of the Supreme Court in the center of Khartoum chanting “freedom” and “protesting is a constitutional right.”
Eyewitnesses said that the police surrounded the lawyers but did not use tear gas or batons to disperse them as they have done to break up other protests in recent weeks.
A delegation of lawyers handed a letter to [Sudanese President Omar] al-Bashir at his presidential palace, asking the president to immediately order the cessation of the use of force against peaceful demonstrators and to release of all detainees.