THE SUDAN CRISIS

The crisis in the third largest country of Africa, took its definite shape when there were sparks to hike in bread prices and cuts in fuel subsidies in December 2018, though the crisis has deeper root causes and goes way back. However, this was the event that brought the protesters to the streets which turned into a nationwide movement.

One of the major initial demands of the protesters was to bring down the Islamist backed Military president, Omar Al-Bashir who had been running an authoritarian rule for the past 30 years in Sudan.

In 1989, Bashir took over as the president of Sudan and has been ruling the country with an iron fist ever since though he has been re-elected several times through undemocratic elections. In 2003-2004, there had been a more or less similar massacre in Darfur of Sudan, which is believed to be genocide, to which it is suspected that Bashir sided along with the RSF and claimed approximately 300,000 lives, as estimated by the UN.

 

In 2005, the UN Security Council referred the Darfur massacre to the International Criminal Court under Resolution 1593. In 2009, Bashir was charged of ‘Genocide and war crimes’ but was released due to insufficient evidence as concluded by the UN and was warranted again in 2010 and 2014 but was suspended due lack of support from UNSC.

The violence continued into 2016 where the government allegedly used chemical weapons against the local population in Darfur. This led to millions being displaced due to the hostile environment. Over 3 million lives are heavily impacted by the conflict.

Finally, on 11th April 2019, Bashir was charged with ‘incitement and involvement in killing of protesters’ and was arrested by a military coup led by the Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf.

 

After Bashir was overthrown, the protesters who were predominantly the members of Sudanese Professionals Association (doctors, health workers and lawyers), demanded for a 3-years transitional government, as they believed that would be a better platform to ensure a ‘free and fair democracy’ for the future.

On May 15, the 7 member Transitional Military was taken in charge by Lt-Gen Abdul Fattah Abdelrahman Burham. But it is suspected that the original power lies in the hands of the Deputy Lt-Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagal, popularly called as Hemedti, who commands the RSF, which is an irregular force outside regular military chain of command. For all we know, Hemedti, who is backed financially by Saudi Arabia and UAE, could be the next potential dictator of Sudan.

On June 3, the last day of Ramadan, the main massacre broke out when the Central Khartoun sit-in was raided by the paramilitary forces, raining fire on the protesters and bringing an end to the six months old largely peaceful uprising.

Though the sole aim of the morning massacre was to disperse the revolutionaries, end the Central sit-in and crush the people’s demands to wrest power from the military, the overwhelming violence was totally unacceptable. When the TMC forcefully invaded the sit-in, it paved way for almost 250 kills, 723 injuries and mass rapes.

One of the first to die was Mohamed Hashim Mattar, a 26-years-old, who became a national hero instantly. His favourite Indigo Blue turned out into a protest symbol, flooding all the social media gaining world-wide attention, which now generally represents all the Sudanese Martyrs. There have been credible reports of 40 bodies fished out of the Nile, including beatings and systematic rapes of protesting women.

The UN referred to the violence as ‘human rights abyss’ and has called for an independent investigation, while removing all non-essential staff from Sudan. The US State Department has all along been condemning the ‘abhorrent violence’ and now a veteran diplomat, Donald Booth, has been appointed as it special envoy for Sudan amid ongoing political turmoil.

There have been calls from the African Union, Egypt and Saudi Arabia ‘for an end to violence and resumption of dialogue’. With the massacre the Sudan Military has declared that the elections will be held within 9 months, though its fairness is obviously questionable. The international response has fortunately been in the support of the revolutionaries. Most African and western countries back them up. The African Union, the European Union, the UK and the US have demanded a ‘transition to civilian rule’ on the protesters’ behalf.

Apparently the next few days are crucial.

If Mr. Ahmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister succeeds in persuading both the sides to an agreement, there would be a noticeable but uncertain step towards democracy. If not, the continuation of the clash between Rapid Support Forces and the unarmed protesters will eventually lead to the fall of the latter.

 

As of now, internet has been shut down by the Military authorities claiming ‘national security’ thus preventing the social media to reach out. Even the mass media has been totally blacked out with the RSF terrorizing the streets of Khartoum in pick-up trucks mounted with heavy guns and lashing anyone who they find as a threat, making it a ‘ghost town’. Despite the heavy guards and oppression, the revolutionaries remain stubborn with the general civil disobedience for a civil state.

I feel that, as an individual, we should create more intense awareness about the current situation in Sudan among our people, since the mass media fails to give the deserved importance. We could also donate medical and food supplements that would be much welcomed by the protesters as they are running out of lifelines.

Stay updated!

Article by : S Sakthi Akshaya, RPT, First year.

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