Sudan: Post Split, Difficult Times in Khartoum

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Lisa Mullins: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH in Boston. This day last year Sudan officially split in two. South Sudan became the world's newest nation, but it has not been a peaceful separation. The two countries have teetered on the brink of war. South Sudan remains among the world's poorest nations. In the north, Sudan has also suffered economically and so have people living in there. Tagreed Abdin is an architect and the mother of three. She lives in the capital Khartoum. She says life has changed dramatically in the past twelve months.

Tagreed Abdin: Since secession the main thing that affected all of us is the sky rocketing inflation because it just happened all of a sudden, and it kept getting worse every single day. So it's like what I used to pay to fill up my gas tank, now I have to pay double of that. Full tuition has gone up a lot. And that's an issue for us as working professional parents so generally because everything is being impacted by the fuel rise.

Mullins: So the government in Khartoum says that, look, these problems are basically caused by South Sudan seceding. And because of the secession Sudan lost about 75 per cent of its oil production. There are opposition groups that say something quite different. They say there was rampant corruption; that there are security problems; that these austerity measures are not necessarily called for because of what happened in the secession, the fact that the South did secede. What are you hearing from the government there, and do you believe what you're hearing?

Abdin: What I hear from the government over and over again is that the measures are necessary because of the economic collapse after the secession, and the wars that started in the south. The secession didn't come as a surprise because it was allowed for in a contract that they negotiated. So why is this a surprise? I mean you had the oil revenue for so long, where did it go? Just if you look at the numbers of oil revenue over the past year, it was considerable money. So where did it all go? And one of the main points that frustrate the people is that the government tells us that they rule in the name of Islam, and they hold it over people's heads, like, if you go against us it's like you're going against religion or the church so to speak. And in practice that's not what people see. The rampant corruption, the lack of accountability and in the name of religion is what frustrates professionals the common man.

Mullins: Is there anything that has gotten better since the secession?

Abdin: No. I can't name a single thing.

Mullins: There are demonstrators who are protesting and much to the chagrin of the government, the government says that they expected that there would be a certain amount of protest, but they believe that the demonstrators have been incited by foreign agendas, and harnessed by foreign aims. Have you thought about going out to join the demonstrations yourself?

Abdin: I have, and in fact I have joined them. But the thing is, the government is downplaying the demonstrations. They're calling them isolated. They're calling them vagabonds. But the truth of the matter is it's a popular uprising. This is a double income home, we're both working professionals. I manage multi-million dollar projects, but when I bring my salary home it's not enough to care my family the way I wanted to. So the people are joining the demonstrations. They're starting them in the universities and now they've moved into the neighborhoods. And although they've downplayed it officially they are taking it seriously because right now I just passed by the University of Khartoum. There were riot police cars with tear gas propellers, [xx], that was the first time I see it because I never knew that they actually used propellers to throw the tear gas inside, the masks. So they can't downplay it if these are the measures they're taking.

Mullins: Do you have any concerns about your own safety as you go out and joining some of these protests?

Abdin: You know we're beyond that. I mean sometimes my family tells me to be careful for the sake of my children and things like that. You know, I haven't joined it like actively, but I go out when there's a crowd, I take pictures, try to document it, post them on the social networks. And that's very out of character for me because I'm not exactly an activist or a political person. But I'm just an angry mother that wants to provide a decent living for my children, so that's what makes me go out at these protests. And things I'm seeing people go hungry, I'm seeing people starving, I'm seeing people eating out of the garbage. I see beggars on the street. I see starving children with sunken eyes and hollow bones, and this is Khartoum, the capital. We don't know what's going on in the rest of the country.

Mullins: Excuse me for interrupting, but is that something that you had not seen before?

Abdin: No, not to this degree. Over the course of this government they have completely ruined the agricultural resources that we had. Right now it's like we import garlic from China. We import apples from the US and sugar from India. And it's ridiculous because we have the most fertile soil in the world we think, the fertile soil on the banks of the Nile. And where is agriculture today? Nothing. Right now the meat prices have doubled and meat is local. So it's like what is happening? Everything it's harder to get.

Mullins: Given all that you have said Miss Abdin, have you thought about or your husband, have you either thought about leaving the country, especially because you have children so young, between three and five years old?

Abdin: You know sadly my husband has thought of it. I thought of it. The problem is I love this country so much. I wanted to raise my children in a country that they can call home. But when it comes to just simply numbers adding up, it does make sense for us to leave, to provide a quality education for our children and a decent living, and even make a decent living ourselves. Sometimes people tell me your children aren't going to thank you for this, or just leaving them to suffer. But right now you know I'm fighting tooth and nail to keep them here. But the thing is it is getting harder and it's on the people definitely.

Mullins: Tagreed Abdin is an architect and mother who lives in Khartoum. You can see photos of the protest in the Sudanese capital. Check them out at theworld.org