Back in April, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was ousted after months of protests and a military coup. What followed was a violent attack on civilian protesters by military officials as the country transitioned to new power. Here, all you need to know about what happened in Sudan, including the killings, internet blackout, and protests.
What happened to the former president?
In April, a coup led to the ousting of the Sudanese president, who had been in power since 1989 and had previously been indicted for war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Once the president left, military leaders said they would agree to civilian rule, though they then stepped in to run the transitional government. The New York Times reported that, at the time, civilian negotiators offered a compromise that would feature rotating power between the civilians and military leaders. However, the talks dissolved and civilians instituted a two-day strike.
So how did things turn violent?
In June, in what seems to be a response to the strike, paramilitary and security forces raided unarmed demonstrators at the capital of Sudan who were peacefully protesting.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, the violence resulted in 52 people dead and 784 injured, though the report says that the number of injured people could be higher. The military also created an internet blackout by cutting off mobile data, which NPR reports most Sudanese people use to access the internet, leaving many without the ability to communicate or disseminate information.
Other civilian reports have put the death count at over 100 and have said a number of bodies were dumped into the Nile river. According to the Times, civilians reported that soldiers had raped women and looted stores, while other burned tents and beat protesters. Protest leaders say the violence stretched beyond the capital and into a number of towns across the country.
In a statement, UNICEF's executive director Henrietta Fore wrote that reportedly at least 19 children were among those who were killed in the attacks. Fore said, "We have received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused. Schools, hospitals and health centres have been targeted, looted and destroyed. Health workers have been attacked simply for doing their job. Many parents are too scared to let their children leave the house, fearful of violence, harassment and lawlessness. Water, food and medicine shortages have been reported across the country, putting children’s health and wellbeing at risk.”
The group that instigated much of the violence is called the Rapid Support Forces, led by a man named Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, otherwise known as Hemeti. Hemeti came to prominence as a commander of a militia group called the janjaweed (from which the RSF was formed), which was accused of atrocities in Darfur in the 2000s, according to the Times. Both Hemeti and the leader of the military coup (more about him, below) have a close relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have funneled billions of dollars to the military forces that have assumed power in Sudan.
Then, on Monday, July 29, four teenage protestors were reportedly killed by RSF security forces. The students were peacefully protesting shortages of water, electricity, and public transport in the city of El-Obeid, according to The Guardian.
The deaths have instigated even more protests, and the state was declared in a state of emergency and internet access was shut down.
The Guardian reported that opposition activists continued to demonstrate, protesting for military to "speed up the move to civilian rule" and protesting for justice on behalf of those killed in June. Al Jazeera similarly reported that people rallied in parts of the Sudan capital to ask for an independent investigation into the June attack.
What do protesters want?
Following the initial violence, NPR reported that a civil disobedience campaign "brought the country's capital to a standstill." The strike was supported by the Sudanese Professionals Association, who said it was the "only measure left for the Sudanese people to hold the country from collapsing into total chaos and insecurity under the rule of the military coup council."
Deserted streets in Sudan as people participate in national strikes/ civil disobedience which began today & will end ‘only when a civilian government announces itself in power on state television’ says the— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) June 9, 2019
Sudanese Professionals Association.
(Video via WhatsApp) pic.twitter.com/9F1yWy67Fl
While the SPA said that the military leaders in government claimed to be preparing for "general and fair elections," they believed "any government that comes as a result of such arrangements would have no shred of legitimacy." The general strike and civil disobedience campaign was later called off.
The leader of the military coup, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said that "all involved in the events that lead to the disruption of the protests site will be held accountable and brought to justice."
The pro-democracy movement wants civilian rule and a long period of transition before new elections begin in order to prepare voter rolls and give the country's political system time to settle and mature. At first, the pro-democracy organizers and military council had agreed to a three-year plan to transition to democracy, but negotiations fell apart, and the military said they would hold elections within nine months. But according to The Guardian, the main opposition force negotiated with the ruling military council in order to finalize an agreement for the three-year transition to elections.
Then in mid-August, civilians and military leaders officially signed a power-sharing deal. According to Al Jazeera, the deal was signed by Hamdan and Ahmed al-Rabie, a representative from the Alliance for Freedom and Change group. The agreement created a “joint military and civilian sovereign council” which will rule for about three years until elections are held. A military leader will head the council for 21 months, and then a civilian will head the council for 18 months. The Times reports that the military will also have control over the defense and interior ministries.
Al Jazeera reports that the agreement included an independent investigation into the violence against protesters by security forces. Al-Bashir is also reported to go on trial starting Monday.
How to help:
Call your representatives in Congress. Call 202-224-3121 to be connected with your congressional leader's office, and let them know you expect them to support the civilians in Sudan.
Spread the word to your friends, family, and followers. It's essential to spread awareness and let others know about the current situation in Sudan. As Nesrine Malik wrote in The Guardian, "For those who ask how to help Sudan, the answer is by preventing the normalisation project and aiding the Sudanese people in getting their message out during the blackout. A message that makes it clear that the deaths and rapes have not worked, that although they are still happening, people will not suffer in vain. Find people on the ground and amplify their voices."
Donate. UNICEF, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee all work toward providing assistance to Sudanese children and families. According to Save the Children, which has been working in Sudan since 1984, "Due to ongoing conflict, many children live under the threat of violence, as well as the possibility of exploitation and abuse. They also often face food and water shortages, inadequate or non-existent healthcare, little hope for an education and one of the highest infant mortality rates."
Sign a petition. There is currently a Change.org petition asking for a U.N. investigation into the attacks on protesters.
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