Sudan is a country in Northeast Africa and borders with Egypt, Erithrea and Etiopia, as well as with South Sudan. Following a bloody and long civil war between 1983 and 2005, South Sudan separated from the country, taking away much of the country’s rich oil fields. The current President has been ruling over the last 3 decades, but his grip on power has been slipping, due to the crisis the country has been in for over a decade.
Protests in Sudan have been going on since December 19th, 2018 and are calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down, along with his National Congress Party. The protests initially began when an increase in bread prices was introduced, but since evolved into general discontent against Bashir and the government.
Between April 6th and 8th violence escalated, when security forces reportedly killed at least 8, and injured dozens in their attempts to disperse the rallies in Khartoum. The protest was a sit-in in front of the army headquarters that began on April 6th and is still continuing on April 9th. Demonstrators called on the army to protect them from the violent crackdown.
The Sudan Professionals Association, one of the groups leading the protests as well as opposition groups called for protests and sit-ins to continue until al-Bashir steps down. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for atrocities in Darfur.
The opposition group leading the protests appealed to the army to engage in talks to form a transitional government.
“We call on the Sudanese armed forces to talk directly with the Alliance for Freedom and Change for facilitating the peaceful process of forming a transitional government,” said Omar el Digeir, a senior member of the group.
Digeir said the protest organisers had also formed a council to initiate talks with security forces and the international community, aimed at agreeing to a “transitional government that represents the wish of the revolution.”
“We reiterate our people’s demand that the head of the regime and his government have to immediately step down,” Digeir said.
Reading from a statement, he also called on the armed forces “to withdraw their support for a regime that has lost its legitimacy” and to support the “people’s alternative for a transition to a civilian democratic government.”
Bashir refused to step down, saying that his opponents need to seek power through the ballot box.
On April 7th, Bashir held a meeting of the Defense and National Security Council. It decided that that the protesters represent a segment of society that its vision and demands must be considered, affirming the government’s keenness to continue dialogue with all groups to achieve national consensus.
Since December 2018, the death toll is above 32 including three security personnel, but doctors and opposition activists suggest the toll is much higher. More than 3,000 people have been arrested since protests began.
“Sudan’s leaders need to bring an end to the violence against peaceful protesters. Such brutal crackdowns are unjustified, unlawful, and counterproductive,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They should respect the right of Sudanese people to peacefully protest.”
Government forces – including national security, police, and auxiliary forces – dispersed protesters using live ammunition, teargas, and stun grenades while army personnel sought to protect protesters and guarded the entrance to the sit-in area. According to Reuters, protesters were burning tires and blocking main roads.
The Sudanese military said that it was not against the protesters but would not allow the country to “fall into chaos,” Defence Minister General Awad Ibnouf said.
“Sudan’s armed forces understand the reasons for the demonstrations and … aspirations of the citizens,” Ibnouf said. Adding that “history will not forgive if the armed forces let the country lose its security.”
He also said that some “circles” were trying to take advantage of the situation and attempt to separate the army, but they would fail.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said a soldier was killed on April 8th while trying to protect those rallying against Bashir.
“In the last 72 hours, there has been a positive [development], to some extent … that army officers are supporting protesters and protecting them from the National Intelligence and Security Service,” SPA spokeswoman Sara Abdeljaleel told Al Jazeera. “We keep asking for the army to … protect this revolution and keep it peaceful,” she added.
Thus, Bashir has no plans of giving up power, yet.
According to reports, Russia, China and Turkey support President Bashir. World Politics Review claimed that Russian “cannot afford to sacrifice the economic and diplomatic benefits of having Bashir in its orbit.” It also claimed that the mythical Wagner group use the country as a sort of base of operations.
The Assistant Secretary for US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs Tibor Nagy praised the Sudanese protesters and issued a warning on behalf of the US not to use force to quench demonstrations.
We call on the Government of #Sudan to halt all use of force against protesters, including the current sit in. A decision to use violence against civilians in the coming days would impact all aspects of our bilateral relationship with the Government of Sudan.
— Tibor Nagy (@AsstSecStateAF) April 8, 2019
The EU issued a statement on April 7th, calling for a peaceful, legitimate and inclusive protest that will allow Sudan to carry out reforms.
The EU said an “unprecedented” number of people had come out calling for change since Saturday.
“The people of Sudan have shown remarkable resilience in the face of extraordinary obstacles over many years,” the EU’s External Action Service said. “Their trust must be won through concrete action by the government.”
What follows are alleged reforms by the Bashar government, since he refused to relinquish power. According to him, the opposition can only attain power by winning it in an election.
On April 8th, The Minister of Information and government spokesman of the government, Hassan Ismail denied reports, started by German outlet DPA that Bashir planned to relinquish power to the Sudanese Army.
He said that this information is completely unfounded; and no such issue has been discussed at all, and that such allegations were intended to cause confusion among citizens.
The spokesman said that the president will meet with the representatives of the Coordination Committee of the dialogue later on April 8th to agree on the timetables and agenda of the dialogue forum.