Since Carter visited Sudan last week, the press has spoken of “Bashir’s surprise,” a set of changes Bashir promised to announce that presumably would include some sort of government reform and an increase in civic freedoms. After days of hype, Bashir finally spoke last night, delivering a speech that one assumes was meant to announce whatever changes were planned. Here’s a few online takes on what happened:
The left-hand picture is titled “The text of the President’s Speech.” The right hand picture is formatted like a religious book (for giving background and commentary on the Quran), and the title roughly translates to “Explaining Bashir’s Speech.”
The whole thing was quite a let-down, even by the standards of Sudanese political announcements. There was some vague talk of peace and inclusivity, with no mention of many of Sudan’s conflict areas. Sadiq al Mahdi, the head of the Umma party, and Hassan al Turabi, the head of the People’s Congress Party, attended (and given Turabi’s presence and his invitation to the US, he and his political party may well be reconciling with Bashir’s National Congress Party). It’s telling that this happened on the same day that the Minister of Justice stated that there would be no investigation into the deaths of those killed during the protests in September. There was barely a pretence that this was anything but posturing.
Possibly the only thing significant that has come out of all this is a set of internet memes. Check out the hashtags #مفاجاة_البشير and #Bashirspeech if you want to get a sense of the response online. On one hand, no one seriously thought that Bashir would step down or enact wide-sweeping government reform. At the same time, the meeting with Carter and the long wait for an announcement made it seem like something would be announced.