Democracy,  International

Girifna braves repression to struggle for democracy in Sudan

Rebecca Hamilton reports for The Washington Post from Khartoum:

Like any aspiring pro-democracy movement, the young Sudanese activists needed a name. They picked Girifna, Arabic for “We are fed up.” They chose orange for their color and the V-for-victory sign as a logo, then began distributing their first pamphlet.

Challenging the ruling party was risky in a country where political dissent is rarely tolerated, the activists said. But they saw a small opening before elections in April, as the United States and the European Union pressed the government to ensure a free and fair vote.

Girifna now has more than 7,000 members on its Facebook page, a YouTube channel and an online radio station. But members have been tear-gassed, beaten and tortured, the group’s leaders say. “We know they can put us in jail at any time,” said co-founder Nagi Musa, 23.

Faced with these challenges, Girifna’s success at conducting voter education and election monitoring campaigns before the vote was a hopeful sign, suggesting that a lively civil society could emerge in one of Africa’s most repressive dictatorships, the group and its supporters say.

“The government’s harsh crackdown on Girifna’s peaceful organizing activities is a testament to the potential power of youth activism,” said Olivia Bueno, associate director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, an organization that supports human rights advocates across Africa.