Sudan in Transition: al-Bashir facing Protests
By Caitlin Stock
Recent protests in Sudan have called to see the end of the 30-year military dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir (Mampilly 2018). Protests began in December 2018 in Atbara and Khartoum and have continued almost daily against the President, demanding his resignation and the establishment of national democratic elections (al-Jazeera News 2019). Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman stated that the country has “experienced 381 protests since 18 December…[t]he total number of protesters arrested until now is 816” (NightWatch 2019). Since South Sudan declared independence in 2011, the country has plunged into the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history. Devaluation of currency, shortage of cash, severe inflation, high food prices, and gas shortages are among the primary motivations for a change in leadership.
Protests first started in December 2018. Since then, movements against the current administration have grown in presence and number. President Omar al-Bashir sought to silence them by authorizing the “government security forces” to kill anyone for participating in, organizing, or otherwise aiding protests. Human rights activist groups have recorded several civilian deaths linked to the President’s authorization: on January 11, 2019, 60-year old Moawia Bashir Khalil was killed by government security forces inside his home for allegedly hiding protesters. Four days later, over 2,000 mourners gathered at his home. The funeral procession turned into a quasi-protest wherein the security forces once again opened fire. While no one was killed during the movement, several dozen were arrested. On January 24, 24-year old Maawiya Bashir was shot in his home for sheltering protesters as well (al-Jazeera and News Agencies 2019). The current death toll is estimated at 30 deaths since December 2018, but human rights activist groups estimate as much as 60 (Maclean 2018).
In addition to civilian deaths, al-Bashir has also allowed the government security forces to hold journalists and international personnel hostage to facilitate a media crackdown (Beaumont 2019). Government officials loyal to al-Bashir have revoked the working permits of media correspondents to stop the spread of “fake news” in Sudan. Numerous journalists working for Arab news networks have been banned from entering the country. In addition, five reporters from three Arab newspapers are detained somewhere in the country.
On January 26, President al-Bashir met with Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss possible aid and solutions to the protests (MEE and Agencies 2019). The Emir reaffirmed their alliance with the Sudanese President and promised foreign aid, most likely as a cash payment. The Qatari government remains quiet on the issue but assures that “Qatar will provide all that is needed to help Sudan get through its crisis” (AP 2019). Also on January 26, the U.S. State Department issued a statement urging the Sudanese government to “end arbitrary detention and excessive force against protesters” and to “release all journalists” in detention.
Since the meeting with the Qatari emir and the U.S. statement, President al-Bashir remains silent and dodgy on the issue of backing down to satisfy protests. Instead, crackdown on protesters and facilitators has increased. al-Bashir refuses to back down despite some government officials urging the action (France 24 and REUTERS 2019). Several government officials, known as the National Front for Change, call for the President to transfer power to a “‘sovereign council’ and a transitional government that would set a ‘suitable’ date for democratic elections” (al-Jazeera News 2019).
- al-Jazeera and News Agencies. 2019. Sudan protests spread as death toll rises to 29.Jan 24. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/sudan-protests-spread-death-toll-rises-29-190124185709313.html
- al-Jazeera News. 2019. Can the protests in Sudan succeed?Jan 20. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2019/01/protests-sudan-succeed-190120193030497.html
- —. 2019. Sudan: Calls grow for Omar al-Bashir to step down.Jan 1. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/sudan-calls-grow-omar-al-bashir-step-190101195901621.html
- AP. 2019. Sudan’s president, facing protests, looks for aid from Qatar.Jan 23. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.apnews.com/64b017ebf0e3493a96cf1f792942be98
- Beaumont, Zeinab Mohammed Salih and Peter. 2019. Omar al-Bashir launches media crackdown as Sudan protests continue.Jan 23. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jan/23/omar-al-bashir-launches-media-crackdown-sudan-protests-continue
- France 24 and REUTERS. 2019. Former Sudanese PM calls for Bashir to quit as protests mount.Jan 25. Accessed Jan 26, 2019.https://www.france24.com/en/20190125-sudan-opposition-leader-calls-bashir-quit-protests
- Maclean, Ruth. 2018. Dozens have been killed by the regime. But Sudan’s protesters march on.Dec 30. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/30/dozens-have-died-but-sudan-protesters-march-on
- Mampilly, NIsrin Elamin and Zachariah. 2018. Recent protests in Sudan are much more than bread riots.Dec 28. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/12/28/recent-protests-in-sudan-are-much-more-than-bread-riots/?utm_term=.580284fbb693
- MEE and Agencies. 2019. Protests continue in Sudan as Bashir meets Qatari ruler.Jan 22. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/protests-continue-sudan-bashir-qatar-visit-102689433
- NightWatch. 2019. For the Night of 7 January 2019.Jan 7. Accessed Jan 26, 2019. https://www.ezsubscription.com/nnl/content/content_servlet.aspx?target=NightWatch_20190107