KHARTOUM (Reuters) – More than 200 unemployed graduates took to the streets to demand jobs in the main oil-producing state of northern Sudan on Thursday, witnesses said, a rare display of dissent in a politically sensitive area.
The police have swiftly crushed a series of small protests in north Sudan this year, some seeking an end to the 21-year-rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and inspired by uprisings in the Arab world.
Those demonstrations have not attracted wide public support.
Thursday’s protest over a lack of jobs in the town of al-Fula in Southern Kordofan state may cause the government concern as the area is dominated by the Arab Misseriya nomads, a well-armed group that has supported Khartoum in the past.
Al-Fula lies in Sudan’s oil Block 6, controlled by a consortium led by CNPC of China.
The unrest in neighbouring Libya and Egypt has come at a sensitive time for the Khartoum government, already facing an economic crisis, the secession of its oil-producing south and an insurgency in the western region of Darfur.
Southern Kordofan borders both Darfur and south Sudan.
Graduates gathered in the streets on al-Fula on Thursday morning shouting “We need jobs” and “We need to start our lives”, a witness told Reuters by phone.
Police made no immediate move to stop the protest or arrest the graduates, said the witness.
There are no official figures for unemployment in Sudan but analysts estimate it at around 20 percent. Graduates, particularly from outside Khartoum, regularly complain about a shortage of jobs.
Armed nomads demanding jobs for locals in the oil sector attacked two oil installations and briefly held one worker in Southern Kordofan in December.
Khartoum police arrested more than 40 women protesting against rape and rights abuses in the capital’s suburb of Omdurman on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said.
On Wednesday, security agents arrested dozens of opposition supporters, including veteran communist leader Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, minutes after they started a protest in downtown Khartoum against Bashir’s rule.
In both cases, activists were released hours after the protests, organisers said.