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Africa is moving towards Mobile Money and eBanking, why do Sudanese keep money under mattresses?

by Milicent Atieno

As we might have pointed out, in our feature of Russian mercenaries clandestine activities across Africa in this article here, Sudan has been embroiled in civil unrest for quite a while now. It appears that the longtime serving President Omar al-Bashir who has ruled the country for three decades now is no longer popular with the citizens.

It would appear the tides have changed against al-Bashir, on whose head there is a warrant of arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. The lack of confidence in his administration and widespread political instability has led to many businesses and individuals not trusting conventional banking institutions with their money.

According to an investigation done by BBC’s Zeinab Mohammed Salih, many people in Sudan shun traditional banks and instead choose to keep their money under their mattresses. One of the reasons why they do so, is if they put their money in banks, most ATMs are often empty. The few ATMs that regularly do have cash also have a long queue of people waiting to withdraw their money.

It is quite a normal scene in the capital Khartoum to see a long queue of people by the bank ATM machines. Then again, people in Sudan have to queue even when getting basic stuff such as bread, and generally the cost of living is rising. One might wait for about an hour in line queueing to get a loaf of bread or withdraw cash at the ATM, but when it is finally their turn, they find out there are no more bread or the ATM has no more cash to dispense.

High Annual Inflation

The cost of basic commodities in Sudan such as groceries, cereals, and other foodstuff has become expensive for most citizens. Even the country’s staple food such as fuul and fava beans have become quite scarce and some convenience stores no longer stock them. As of November 2018, the annual inflation rate for Sudan stood at 68%, compared to 25% in November 2017.

The rising cost of living has sparked mass protests across the country, protests that are still ongoing. These protests are reported to have begun in the eastern city of Atbara on December 19, where the headquarters of the governing political party, the National Congress Party (NCP) are situated. The protests escalated to the point the NCP headquarters were torched.

Reminiscent of the Arab Spring

The demonstrations have morphed up to the point the demonstrators are calling for the removal of President Omar al-Bashir. A president who has held the helm of power in Sudan for three decades now.

The protests have even adapted some of the slogans used in the Arab Spring including “The People want the fall of the regime.” This is the single largest protest against al-Bashir since he took power in 1989 through an Islamist-backed military coup.

As any dictator would do in their desperation to stump their authority and curtail dissident, al-Bashir administration has been ruthlessly arresting members of the opposition and any journalist deemed giving too much airtime to the demonstrations.

Accusations of Racism as Riot Police execute non-Arab protestors

The government is pointing the blame finger for the people behind the protests to people living within the western region of Darfur. It says it is the Darfuris who are masterminding the protests and carrying out sabotage and vandalism during the protests.

During one of the protests, anti-riot police singled out a group of young Darfuris students of non-Arab descent and arrested them. The police the alleged they were being trained by the Israeli secret service to sabotage the government of Sudan.

Friends to young Darfuris arrested came out in their defense saying they had nothing to do with any foreign bodies. In solidarity with the arrested students, protesters have now added a new slogan into their shoutings, “You arrogant racists, we are all Darfuris.”

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