Buses ferry people to work as Sudan strike flops

Sudanese went to work, traffic in Khartoum busy as usual

KHARTOUM - A nationwide "sit-at-home" strike called by Sudanese opposition activists in protest at price hikes failed on Monday as buses ferried workers to offices and schools remained open.
The one-day action is part of a "civil disobedience movement" launched by activists against a government decision in November to hike fuel prices that has led to a sharp rise in the cost of other goods, including medicines.
But Sudanese went to work and traffic in Khartoum was busy as usual, an AFP correspondent reported after touring several districts of the capital.
"I have already made three trips to downtown ferrying passengers to their work places," said Ahmed Fadil, a minibus driver who operates from the main bus station.
The three-wheeled rickshaws, a key mode of transportation for labourers, were also trundling on Khartoum's streets.
"Everything is normal. I have been taking people to work as on any other day," said one driver.
Cafes, restaurants and shops were open in downtown Khartoum, as hawkers and street vendors displayed their goods on pavements.
Schools across Khartoum and other cities remained open, while several banks and private companies said their employees had reported to work.
"It seems many people are not even aware of the strike call," the manager of a private hotel chain said, asking not to be named.
Ahead of the action, groups of activists, actors, journalists, lawyers, teachers and pharmacists had taken to social media to mobilise support after a similar three-day strike in November drew a mixed response.
Activists said workers had only reported to work on Monday out of fear.
"Those who had participated in last month's strike had been punished. Their employers had cut their salaries," said an activist involved in organising Monday's strike.
"We believe that our strike today did not fail, and that our struggle against the regime is going to be a long one."
On December 12, President Omar al-Bashir had vowed to crush any new anti-regime protests as the authorities did three years ago.
A previous round of fuel subsidy cuts in 2013 sparked serious unrest that was only suppressed by a deadly government crackdown that drew international condemnation.
Rights groups say about 200 lives were lost in street clashes with security forces, while the government puts the death toll at less than 100.
The authorities are determined to avoid any repetition of unrest and have rounded up several opposition leaders to prevent widespread protests this time.
Khartoum has been forced to progressively reduce fuel subsidies since 2011 when South Sudan seceded and took with it nearly three-quarters of the formerly united country's oil reserves.