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Sudan: 'Arab Spring' protests wane, but activists remain optimistic

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Those who have taken to the streets are mostly activists, says this student, who like other activists interviewed for this story asked not to be named. "But a regular Sudanese is just sitting in his house saying, 'Good work,'" says the student. "They are not physically engaged."

That high degree of passivity, despite severe economic hardship, has enabled security forces – who are also not particularly well paid, with policemen often receiving the equivalent of $70 per month – to keep protests under control.

"What is happening is the result of an accumulation of frustration, which dates to the separation of the South" a year ago, says Adil Abdelghani, a lawyer in Khartoum. North Sudanese have been despondent that they have "retreated" from the first to third largest country in Africa.

Also, after decades of mobilizing fighters to wage jihad on southern battlefronts, only to finally lose the vast territory – as well as the oil that once formed the lifeblood of Sudan – means that "the achievements the government had been speaking about either were not real, or they were lost," says Mr. Abdelghani.

"The pillars of the Sudanese economy have been destroyed, so now we are staring on this debris and ruin," adds Abdelghani, noting the currency losing value and "skyrocketing" prices. "What's going on now will continue. But whether it amounts to overthrowing the regime, I don't have an answer."

'Walls of fear are breaking down'

Antigovernment activists also say they can't calculate the staying power of Bashir, though the country has not seen such street protests – modest as they are – in many years.

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