Sudan: A New Democracy Rises in Africa
With #BlueforSudan trending all over social media platforms, it is imperative to gain a deeper insight on the matter and understand the complexities of the ongoing conflict situation in the country. While its neighboring country South-Sudan has been tackling its own civil war and political instability since 2013 between the warring factions of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- in opposition (SPLM-IO), the situation in Sudan has been a recent development.
Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, a veteran of the National Congress Party in Sudan had been ruling the country for almost 30 years since 1989. While his own government has been “elected” thrice, a feat credited to grave election fraud, his term in power has been founded over a systematic mass killing in Darfur with the help of the Janjaweed militia. Although the International Criminal Court (ICC) has twice issued arrest warrants for Al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide, it was eventually rejected by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Al-Bashir’s dictatorial rule in 2011 not only limited civil liberties and freedoms but also led to economic instability when the southern part of the country seceded, taking away a majority of the oil-laden fields and their consequent wealth.
Onset of the Protests
Starting on 19 December 2018, in several parts of the country such as Atbara, a north-eastern state in Sudan, the protests demanding economic relief spread to Port Sudan, Gadarif, and later spread to the country’s capital Khartoum. The major triggers of the peaceful protests were the severe austerity measures imposed by the government to stabilize the economy. Subsidies were slashed and prices were tripled, coupled with a cash-withdrawal limit from banks. The peaceful demonstrations were a form of protest against the government’s economic policies, which were directly met with the imposition of emergency and curfews limiting the mobility of the people.
As the protest’s momentum reached Khartoum, the demands changed and now targeted the root causes of distress of the Sudanese people over the years, directed towards the President. The demand for the removal of President al-Bashir from power was supported by all sections of the society which led to a nation-wide imposition of the state of emergency on February 6, 2019.
Dissatisfaction amongst the people peaked on April 6 when a massive protest was organized outside the Sudanese Army Headquarters with the people demanding the Army to forcibly remove the President, resulting in an organised coup-de-tat which not only removed the President from his position but also led to his imprisonment for gross encroachments on human rights and mass killings under his rule.
One of the major outcomes of the coup was the setting up of the seven-member Transitional Military Council (TMC), a provisional body headed by the Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his Deputy leader Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, infamously known as "Hemeti", who also functions as the de facto leader. The TMC, as stated by Burhan, was to function for a maximum of three-years from the date of its formulation, until a stable 300-member parliament body, with two-thirds of legislators coming from the protest movement is formed. In spite of the assurances of the TMC, people did not see any real change, with many claiming that the situation was worsening each day. With reports of hostilities conducted by the military itself, it seemed that the TMC had been working to prop up another dictatorial, military-friendly government.
Consequently, on June 3, the Sudanese Security Forces, along with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) which are under Hemeti’s control, and the Janjaweed militia infamous for its cruel and inhuman violent ways, brutally cracked down peaceful sit-ins in Khartoum with the use of tear- gas, an event now known as the “Khartoum Massacre” where the death toll is in hundreds. The TMC regrets the act, and explains that the plan was only meant to disperse people from the sit-in although ‘some mistakes happened’.
The Pro-Democracy Protesters
The protests are a result of the efforts of Sudan Professionals Association (SPA) a leading collective organization comprising of doctors, journalists, lawyers and other professionals. It has been an important element in drawing the world’s attention to the crisis with #IAmTheSudanRevolution hashtags all over social media.
A major highlight of the movement is the active participation of women and youth. For instance, 22-year old Alaa Salah, a Sudanese woman who can be seen in white addressing the crowd while standing atop on a car, has inadvertently become a symbol of the revolution. Due to social media, women and youth were constantly involved and regularly updated about protests all over the country, and were also aware of the response they received from other parts of the world. As a primary instrument of the revolution, the internet blackout has severely affected the world’s access to recent political developments in Sudan.
On August 4, a constitutional declaration was signed between the protestors and the military wherein it was agreed that power-sharing between both parties would take place for 39 months (3yrs and 3 months), following which there would be elections to constitute a democratically elected government in Sudan. A sovereign council, cabinet and legislative body shall be formed with the council being headed by a military general for the first 21 months and a civilian for the remaining 18 months. This declaration is considered as a landmark agreement, bringing a peaceful end to a violent revolution. Furthermore, the United Nations Security Council in its press statement on Sudan also appreciated the Sudanese citizens’ commitment to a peaceful transition, towards a more responsible and citizen-centric government.
With Sudan now under the leadership of Abdalla Hamdok as it’s Prime Minister, the focus lies on rebuilding the economy. It has been estimated that roughly 8 billion dollars would be required to reconstruct Sudan’s economy with substantial support from World Bank, and International Monetary Fund, in order to help Sudan, rise and prosper to become a successful global economy.
Views expressed are solely those of the author.
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About the Author
Karun Gupta is a law graduate from Amity Law School, Delhi, Indraprastha University. He is a passionate speaker and an enthusiastic participant in Moots and Model United Nations Conferences. He loves research and has published a paper in a leading Law and Policy journal as well. Additionally, he works as a Student Editor at a reputed Law Journal as well. His interests lie in the field of public policy, constitutional law and international law.