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Sudan Protests 2018-2019

Having undergone three transitions in the last six decades - one from colonial to national rule, and the other two from military dictatorships to short-lived democracies - Sudan is no stranger to government transitions. Post-independence Sudan witnessed the successes of "people's power" during two historic turning points in October 1964 and April 1985, when a combination of political general strikes at places of work and scattered day-long demonstrations in residential areas resulted in bringing down unpopular military dictatorships. In 1988 similar tactics led to the weakening of the elected civilian government of Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi, later toppled in June 1989 by the third military takeover in Sudan's recent history. The Bashir government took steps to prevent a recurrence of this pattern.

Hundreds of protesters in Khartoum chanted slogans Friday 21 December 2018 against the al- Bashir government, and they included the popular Arab Spring slogan, "The people want to topple the regime." It was the fourth day of protests over rising prices and political oppression.

Sudan's spy chief, Salah Gosh, reportedly met with journalists and other well-known figures Friday to demand they conform to a national loyalty pact. A number of newspapers reportedly decided not to publish Saturday because of the restrictions. Gosh also was reported on social media to have claimed that the Israeli Mossad was involved in sabotage and violence during the four days of protests.

Protests against price rises and the autocratic three-decade regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir spread in Sudan, amid reports of fresh casualties. Faisal Hassan Ibrahim, deputy head of the ruling party, asserted that the protests appeared to be "coordinated and organized," and he insisted the security forces were "guarding strategic locations" across the country.

Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was ousted by Bashir in 1989, told a press conference that a "national unity government" should be formed. Al-Mahdi, who recently returned from exile to resume political activity, said the popular rejection of the regime had spread to 28 cities, meaning the Sudanese people were expressing their opposition to a dictatorial regime.

Since the demonstrations started spreading on 19 December 2018, police dispersed protesters with tear gas and sometimes used live ammunition, killing at least 37 protesters withing 5 days according to Amnesty International. Dozens of people had been killed, most of them shot by security forces. Sudan's government puts the death toll at 26, while activists say at least 55 people have died. The country neared a partial shutdown as the government implemented emergency measures, including the closing of schools and universities, a strategy aimed at weakening the demonstrations against Bashir.

Some political analysts said that the current protests could create further divisions within the ruling party, while political opponents said the president's policies were responsible for the unrest. There had been several waves of anti-government protests since 2012. But the current one has become the longest since Sudan gained independence in 1956. Hundreds had been arrested in cities and villages across Sudan amid street demonstrations.

In every march, similar slogans can be heard: "Freedom, Peace and Justice" as well as "step down, that's it." Among those arrested are activists, doctors and lawyers, as well as journalists who have been covering the demonstrations. What started out as a sporadic wave is becoming more organised with a group known as the Sudanese Professional Association taking the lead in organizing major protests in the capital Khartoum and several other cities.

Bashir, a 75-year-old former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, said he would only move aside for another army officer, or at the ballot box.

The Sudanese army said 30 January 2019 it will not allow the state to collapse following weeks of mass protests demanding an end to President Omar al-Bashir's near 30-year rule. Some activists had been calling for the military to back the protesters and pressure the government to step down. "The armed forces will not allow the Sudanese state to fall or to slide into the unknown," said General Kamal Abdul Maarouf, chief of staff of the armed forces.

Facing the biggest popular protests since he came to power 30 years ago, on 22 February 2019 Bashir declared a state of emergency for one year and said he would dissolve the central government and state governments. The state of emergency gives the police, the security forces and the military the right to search without warrant, to raid houses and arrest anybody they deem a threat to the country's national security and economic development and stability.

Hundreds of protesters, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists had been jailed by the widely-feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Sudanese officials said around 31 people have been killed since the protests began in December 2018, although the opposition puts the number at closer to 50. Protesters now said they will keep up their demonstrations until Bashir steps down.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir was removed by the military 11 April 2019 after months of anti-government protests against his three-decade rule. The long-time ruler was replaced by a military council headed by General Awad Ibn Auf, who imposed a three-month state of emergency and declared the transitional body would rule the country for two years. The coup and installation of the council were rejected by the protesters, who said the moves did not meet their long-standing demands for a civilian-led government. Amid continued demonstrations, Ibn Auf resigned on 12 April 2019 and named Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as his successor.

The Interim Military Council (IMC) affirmed 13 April 2019 the formation of a military council to represent the sovereignty of the state and form a civilian government accepted, by all. The head of the council, Lit General, Abdul Fatah al-Burhan Abdul Rahman, said in a statement he delivered, Saturday, in the Defense Ministry that the military council is committed to establisha civil government in accordance with a transitional period of maximum two years during which the state will be handed over to a civilian government formed by the people. The statement stressed the full commitment to fight corruption and hold accountable those who corrupt or helped to damage the economy or social life, as well as the relieving of all the corrupted government officials.

The military council wanted to hold on to the interior and defence ministries in any transitional government, one of its members said, adding that political parties can decide on a civilian prime minister. "We, your brothers in the armed forces, are asking you to support us with your initiatives to brave through the transitional period," General Yasir Atta told a press conference in Khartoum 14 April 2019. "We need and hope all of you within a short span of time come to a consensus and agreement upon one figure, a patriotic independent person, to lead the government." Atta said the military council only wanted two positions, the defense and interior ministries. That's because, in his words, they want to maintain order and security in the country.

The African Union on 15 April 2019 threatened to suspend Sudan following last weeks coup that saw Omar al-Bashir ousted by the military after nearly three decades in power. If the junta fails to hand power to civilians within 15 days, the AU will suspend the participation of the Sudan in all AUs activities until the restoration of constitutional order, the bodys Peace and Security Council (PSC) said in a statement.

The head of Sudans ruling Transitional Military Council fired the three highest-ranking public prosecutors, the TMC said on 16 April 2019, after protesters demanded an overhaul of the judiciary as part of steps toward a civilian government. The Sudanese Professionals Association spearheading the revolt has issued a long list of demands for wholesale change to end repression and ease an economic crisis after the military deposed veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir. In a statement, the TMC said council chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had sacked chief prosecutor Omar Ahmed Mohamed Abdelsalam and deputy public prosecutor Hesham Othman Ibrahim Saleh, as well as head of public prosecutions Amer Ibrahim Majid.

Organisers of anti-government protests rejected Bashir's toppling by the army on 11 April 2019 as a "coup conducted by the regime" and vowed to keep up their campaign. "The regime has conducted a military coup by bringing back the same faces and the same institutions which our people rose against," the Alliance for Freedom and Change said in a statement. "We all reject what has been mentioned in the coup statement issued by the regime," said the alliance, an umbrella group of grass-roots organisers and opposition parties and rebel groups. "We call on our people to continued their sit-in in front of army headquarters and across all regions and in the streets."

Heavy gunfire erupted in Sudans capital 03 June 2019 as security forces close off streets and attempt to clear protesters from a two-month sit-in calling for democracy. The attack against the protesters came days after al-Burhan met with his top foreign allies, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who had both been strong supporters of the TMC and deeply oppose movements such as those that swept the region in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Sudans doctors association initially said at least 13 people were killed and many critically injured. However, separate medical sources put the death toll to at least 24. According to witnesses, bodies of protesters shot dead by the TMC were disposed of in the Nile River near the site of the protest sit-in, and could be seen floating in the water.

The casualties came after gunfire erupted in Khartoum as security forces attempted to clear the almost two-month sit-in around military headquarters. The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main protest group, accused the military of staging a coup against them and vowed more protests and nation-wide strikes.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December, said it amounted to a "bloody massacre" and hundreds of people had been wounded. Protests erupted in towns across Sudan in response to the violence in Khartoum. The military assault on protesters appeared to be a coordinated move, with other forces attacking similar sit-ins in Khartoum's sister city of Omdurman and the eastern city of al Qadarif.

"The Rapid Support Forces and the army and police and militia battalions dispersed the peaceful sit-in," the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the protesters' umbrella group, said in a statement. Outside the army headquarters "there is no one, but the pure bodies of our martyrs that it has not been possible to evacuate from the site". Hemeti, an alleged war criminal whose forces committed mass rape, killings, abuses in Darfur, had his Rapid Support Forces storm trying to Royal Care Hospital, denying access to an ambulance reportedly carrying injured protesters.

The crackdwon in Sudan came one say short of the 30th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square, when Chinese troops opened fire to end student-led unrest. June 4, 1989, was a "historic turning point" for China, which had since taken a different path for democratic development.

The military council that ruled since Bashir's overthrow afterwards on 04 June 2019 cancelled all agreements with the main opposition alliance and said an election should be held within nine months. Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said the TMC would now move to set up an interim government to prepare for elections, which he added would be internationally supervised. The TMC head accused the alliance representing the protesters of "extending the negotiations and seeking to exclude other political and security forces" from being in a transitional government.

Sudan's opposition rejected the plan by its military rulers to hold elections within nine months, a day after the worst bout of violence since Omar al Bashir was ousted as president in April. At least 35 people were killed on when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the defence ministry in central Khartoum, according to doctors linked to the opposition. Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces opposition alliance, said a civil disobedience campaign would continue to try to force the council from power. The opposition rejected all that Transitional Military Council (TMC) Head Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan said in his statement, Madani said.

The Soufan Group, a security and intelligence think-tank, warned that the situation could escalate swiftly to more violence. "There are clear parallels to some of the Arab Spring protests that eventually progressed to full-blown insurgencies, including Syria, where indiscriminate shelling of civilians by the military initially galvanised protest movements that helped launch a broader uprising," it said in an analysis. "There is a real risk that the situation could spiral into full-blown civil war, which would significantly affect the region, with spillover violence impacting the ongoing conflict in Libya."

The African Union suspended Sudan from all activities until a civilian-led government is formed. The AU Peace and Security Council announced the suspension 0 June 2019 as protest leaders in Sudan rejected an offer from the ruling military council to negotiate the country's political future. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in the Sudanese capital 07 June 2019 to mediate talks between the ruling military council and leaders of the pro-democracy protest movement. Ahmed met with generals in Khartoum and is expected to meet separately with leaders of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change.

Sudanese doctors allied with the opposition said 113 people were killed, and more than 500 others wounded in clashes. The Sudanese Health Ministry issued a statement saying the number is "no more than 46."

Sudanese police on 09 June 2019 fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Sudan's capital Khartoum during a civil disobedience campaign to demand civilian rule. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led the demonstrations that spurred the army to topple President Omar al-Bashir, said the civil disobedience campaign would continue until the military council ceded power to civilians.

With talks deadlocked, leaders of Sudan's protest movement said they were escalating their pressure on the military, starting with the strike. A two-day nationwide strike beginning 28 May 2019 was called by opposition leaders demanding that Sudan's military junta transfer power to a civilian government. An alliance of unions, professional organizations, and political parties called the strike. The broad support for the protest was despite the rejection of the strike by of the opposition Umma Party, a member of the opposition alliance, which had raised fears of a split in the civilian movement. If the military does not hand power to civilians after the strike ends, the opposition alliance will call for further civil disobedience.

Sudans protest umbrella group, the Alliance for Freedom and Change, agreed on 15 August 2019 to nominate veteran economist Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister of the three-year transitional government. Hamdok was expected to be formally appointed on August 20 and take a constitutional oath the following day. Hamdok was deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNCEA) from 2011 until October last year when he stepped down. Hamdok had also previously worked at Deloitte & Touche, the International Labour Organisation and the African Development Bank.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:46:51 ZULU