December’s protests began spontaneously in the city of Atbara, but they were quickly given direction and purpose by the Sudanese Professionals Organisation, an umbrella group dominated by doctors, which has marshalled near daily protests and industrial action across the country.
“Demands for major healthcare changes have been repeatedly ignored over the year,” doctors’ groups said in a statement. “There has been a blatant policy of systematically destroying the once free national health service. Our only option, coupled by our professional duty, was to escalate our protests.”
The Bashir regime has thwarted previous protests, killing some 180 people during the last significant uprising in 2013. Yet Sudan observers say that, this time, the fear factor has been broken, with violence increasing rather than deterring the protesters’ determination.
Other professionals have joined demands for Mr Bashir’s resignation, including professors at Khartoum University, another hallowed colonial institution that began its days as the Gordon Memorial College in 1902. Other groups, most significantly dock workers at Port Sudan, have joined the strikes.
And even Sudan’s normally cautious opposition, sensing Mr Bashir’s growing vulnerability, has come out in support of the protests. Last week, Sadiq al-Mahdi, the bearded Oxford-educated former prime minister overthrown by Mr Bashir in 1989, demanded the president’s resignation.