Recent Developments in Sudan
By Riley Madrian
Since December, the streets of Sudan have been filled with tens of thousands of peaceful protestors (Abdulbari). These demonstrations began over cuts to bread and fuel subsidies, but quickly turned to calls for the overthrow of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, whose 30-year rule has been marked by a deteriorating economy, rapidly increasing inflation, and widespread corruption (“Sudan’s inflation…”). In January, security forces in Khartoum began firing tear gas, stun grenades, and live ammunition at protestors gathered at sit-ins in an attempt to quell protests (Lewis). Over 1,000 have been detained since the beginning of the demonstrations (“Sudan’s Omar…”).
In an announcement in February, al-Bashir asked the parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term, prompting the idea that he would step down (“Sudan’s Omar…:”). However, during the same speech, he declared the beginning of a year-long state of emergency, and the dissolution of the federal and provincial governments (“Sudan’s Omar…”). He replaced state governors with military generals.
On April 11, the Sudanese military staged a coup d’état and took President al-Bashir into custody, while also dissolving the government, suspending the Constitution, starting 10 p.m. curfews, releasing political prisoners, and announcing a two-year transition led by the newly formed Transitional Military Council (Walsh, Goldstein). Initially, protestors applauded the deposition of dictator al-Bashir; however, they soon realized that their calls for a civilian transitional government had been ignored (Walsh, Goldstein). The military replaced al-Bashir with Lieutenant General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, who has been accused of committing war crimes during the War in Darfur in 2003.
In the last hours of Ramadan on June 3, security forces opened fire on the main protest camp in Khartoum (“‘Bloody massacre’…”). Over 100 protestors were killed and as many as 700 were injured by Sudan’s paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces (Salih). Sudanese doctors also report that the RSF carried out more than 70 rapes of men and women during the crackdown (Salih). According to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, 40 bodies have been pulled from the River Nile by the RSF and have been taken to an unknown location (“African Union…”). The Sudanese Professional’s Association (SPA), which has spearheaded the pro-democracy protests since December, holds the Transitional Military Council (TMC) responsible for the massacre (“‘Bloody massacre’…”). The RSF opened fire in a hospital and surrounded another, preventing medical personnel from entering (“‘Bloody massacre’…”). The TMC also shut down the internet, in what has been described as a “near-total restriction” of all information in and out of Sudan (“Severe internet…”). This internet black-out is more severe than any that were imposed by ousted President al-Bashir (“Severe internet…”). Additionally, Al-Jazeera’s journalists have been ordered not to report from Sudan, after their Khartoum office was shut down by the TMC on May 30 (“Sudan army…”).
As a result of the massacre in Khartoum, the African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership until a civilian-led transitional authority is established (“African Union…”). The United States has condemned the attacks on protestors and has called on Sudan’s military rulers to “desist from violence”, while Russia has said it opposes foreign intervention in Sudan (“African Union…”). Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Russia favors a transitional period leading to presidential elections, and, in order to achieve that, Sudan must fight against “extremists and provocateurs”; however, Bogdanov does not specify which groups he considers to be extremists (“African Union…”).
Protestors continue to organize despite the lack of internet and the threat of violence. Protest leaders from the Alliance for Freedom and Change have been organizing daily gatherings to keep the protests alive (“Sudan protestors…”). The main modes of communication now among activists are text messaging and word of mouth.
Abdulbari, Nasredeen. “The Strong and Beautiful Message of Sudan’s Young Protesters.” 2019. The New York Times. January 29. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/opinion/sudan-protests-bashir.html?module=inline
“African Union suspends Sudan over military crackdown.” 2019. Al Jazeera. June 7. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/african-union-suspends-sudan-violence-protesters-190606113838460.html
“’Bloody massacre’: Sudan forces kill at least 35, protesters say.” 2019. Al Jazeera. June 3. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/massacre-sudan-forces-kill-30-protesters-190603163458318.html
Lewis, Aidan and Mohamed Wali. “Sudan’s Bashir says protesters trying to copy Arab Spring.” 2019. Reuters. January 27. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-sudan-protests/sudans-bashir-says-protesters-trying-to-copy-arab-spring-idUKKCN1PL0O1
Salih, Zeinab Mohammed and Jason Burke. “Sudanese doctors say dozens of people raped during sit-in attack.” 2019. The Guardian. June 11. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/11/sudan-troops-protesters-attack-sit-in-rape-khartoum-doctors-report
“Severe internet outage across Sudan amid reports of Darfur paramilitary attacks.” 2019. NetBlocks. June 10. https://netblocks.org/reports/severe-internet-outage-across-sudan-amid-reports-of-darfur-paramilitary-attacks-aAwq0oyM
“Sudan army says protest site a threat, closes Al Jazeera office.” 2019. Al Jazeera. May 31. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/sudan-army-protest-site-threat-closes-al-jazeera-office-190530234405647.html
“Sudan’s inflation rise to 72,94% in December.” 2019. Sudan Tribune. January 19. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article66936
“Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir declares state of emergency.” 2019. BBC. February 23. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47330423
“Sudan protestors hold night gatherings to rekindle movement.” 2019. Arab News. June 22. http://www.arabnews.com/node/1514586/middle-east
Walsh, Declan. “Facing Protests, Sudan’s Leader Declares Yearlong State of Emergency.” 2019. The New York Times. February 22. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/22/world/africa/sudan-bashir-emergency.html?searchResultPosition=3
Walsh, Declan and Joseph Goldstein. “Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir Is Ousted, but Not His Regime.” 2019. The New York Times. April 11. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/world/africa/sudan-omar-hassan-al-bashir.html?module=inline