Now you may know Sudan from the genocide in Darfur or the movie Machine Gun Preacher. Whichever it is you know first, we have to talk about Sudan because right now the country is descending into chaos. Just this week, Sudan’s security forces open fire at protesters in Khartoum (Capital of Sudan). BBC reported on 5th June 2019 at least over 100 people are believed to have been killed and the numbers keep rising. Right now, the militaries are cracking down a movement calling for democracy.
Just a few months ago, things are looking good in Sudan. A Podcast from The Guardian on April 17th 2019 reported that the protesters manage to topple Omar al-Bashir, a dictator who have ruled Sudan for 30 years. A transcript from a CNN news stream on April 11th 2019 stated that there were thousands of people marching towards the military headquarters chanting “He is a coward, and he has fallen”. People of Sudan was euphoric, because life under al-Bashir was awful. According to CrisisGroup.org during his reign, al-Bashir locked up thousands of political dissidents and according to the US Department of state archives, he carried out the ethnic cleansing of non Arabs in Darfur, also mentioned in his Wikipedia Page that in the 1990’s he hosted Osama bin Laden. On top of that, it was reported by enoughproject.org in November 2018 Sudan’s economy was also collapsing. So, all of this sparked Sudan’s pro democracy movement which were lead by Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).
Sudan is made up of lots of ethnic groups. Based on the reports of what has happened in Darfur, al-Bashir managed to stay in power by oppressing the country’s minorities. That way, his majority era population stayed in control. But, part of what makes these protests remarkable is that Sudanese people from all different ethnic groups came together to overthrow al-Bashir, and most of these people are incredibly young. These protesters understood what they were up against, they’ve seen a failed uprising. On April 14th 2019 Albawaba reported that the protesters were chanting “Victory or Egypt”. In 2011, As Reported by The Guardian, Egypt managed to replace Hosni Mubarak (their long time dictator) with a democracy that elected the Muslim Brotherhood for a year only to be overthrown by another dictator Abdul Fattah as-Sisi who is reported by Foreign Policy in December 2018 as “much worse”. Sudanese protesters don’t want to be Egypt. After al-Bashir fell, the military stepped in to run the transitional government.
The SPA is fighting back and they’re relying on strengths in numbers. Reported by CNN news on June 9th 2019, they called for civil disobedience to paralyze public life, and they’re refusing to budge from their fundamental demands which includes civilian government, end to brutal militias, and the empowerment of women. Washington Post reported on Apirl 12th 2019 that Sudan is a place where women are faced with decades of oppression, with virtually no legal protections. Most of the leaders in the protest on bringing down al-Bashir were women.
For several months protesters were optimistic about negotiations with the military, but recently things fell apart. The country is now lead by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (General inspector in the Sudanese Armed Forces) and his vice president Mohammad Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo (Commander of the Rapid Support Forces). For years, as reported by The Telegraph, Hemedti commanded the notorious Janjaweed militia, which oversaw the genocide in Darfur. Under Hemedti, the Janjaweed murdered hundreds of thousands of minorities in Darfur. He has made public and clear statements threatening protesters who wants to see civilians rule, As reported by Al Jazeera News. Hemedti maybe the largest obstacle to meaningful change in Sudan right now. He’s a holdover from Bashir, his forces (RSF) opened fire on protesters this week, and he is very friendly with Saudi Arabia.
After the fall of al-Bashir, Reuters reported on April 21st 2019, Hemedti went to Saudi Arabia to discuss collaboration between the two countries, given the current situation in Sudan. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are sending $3 billion worth of aid to the intern-ruling military council. Sudan has strategic importance for Saudi Arabia because the country has access to the Red sea, a route where 1/10th of the world’s crude oil is shipped, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Usually when it comes to oil, the US is very much interested but in December of 2018 John Bolton (National Security Advisor) remarks that The U.S. will no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the continent of Africa.
In contrast of that, the European Union is heavily involved in Sudan. At the peak of migrant crisis, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, Sudan had around four million refugees trying to get to Europe. That’s why the EU started The Khartoum Process. The Khartoum Process official website states that it’s supposed to make the migration routes safer, but in reality the Eurozine reported that the EU pays millions in aid to African governments to keep Africans in Africa. In the case of Sudan, that charity money ends up in the hands of border control, which includes RSF.
By the time you read this, the death toll will be even higher. Khartoum is on lockdown. Hospitals are kicking out people who had been injured, COMPLETE internet black out, no cell receptions. The RSF continues to kill innocent, peaceful protesters. Even though Sudan is now in the middle of changing into democracy and the threat of brutal dictatorship, the protesters are still hopeful.
Why? Because for the first time in 30 years, Sudan is united.