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Sudanese protesters at an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum on Jan. 6. Photo: AFP/Getty

In recent weeks, thousands of young people across Sudan have taken to the streets in protest against strongman Omar al-Bashir, the leader of one of the world’s most repressive governments.

Why it matters: While the protests were initially sparked by economic issues — inflation in Sudan is currently running around 70% — a brutal crackdown has helped stoke broader popular demands for Bashir’s resignation. 

Bashir, a former paratrooper, is a wily and brutal survivor. He first took power 29 years ago in a coup backed by Islamic fundamentalists, and he immediately dialed up the Arab-dominated government’s long-running war against black and predominantly Christian separatists in the country’s oil rich south.

  • By the time that war fully ended with the south’s internationally brokered secession in 2011, more than 2 million people had been killed. 
  • Even as that war was winding down, Bashir crushed a rebellion in the western Sudanese region of Darfur with such brutality that he became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide.
  • Tight U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 over human rights abuses and support for terrorism (Osama bin Laden briefly called Sudan home) helped him burnish his image as a populist defender of his people against a neo-colonial West. 

Flashback: In 2013, he crushed a street movement in the capital that was inspired by the Arab Spring.

  • This time around, however, protests appear more sustained and widespread, even if they lack coherent leadership and structure. And stripped of the cash that South Sudan’s oil fields once pumped into Khartoum, Bashir has much less room to prop up a badly mismanaged economy, even with the help of Gulf Arab allies. 
  • In addition, the removal of long-standing U.S. sanctions in 2017 exposed the deeper rot of Sudan’s economy while stripping the wily populist of one of his go-to excuses for economic hardship. 

The bottom line: The future of this turbulent African country may be about to take another historic turn. 

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Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.