2018–19 Sudanese protests

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Sudanese protests (2018–19)
Part of Arab world protests (2018–19)
Sudanese protestors chanting.jpg
Protesters in Khartoum in front of the Sudanese Army headquarters
Date19 December 2018 (2018-12-19) – ongoing
(4 months and 6 days)
Caused by
Goals
Methods
Resulted in
  • Al-Bashir imposes state of emergency, dissolves central and regional governments, forms new government, and postpones constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term in 2020, without cancelling his candidacy[5][6]
  • Following protests, military seized power in coup d'état; Bashir overthrown and placed under arrest.[7]
  • Junta leader and de facto head of state Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, formerly defense minister and an ally of al-Bashir,[7] steps down after protests, transfers power to Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan.[8]
  • Protesters demand immediate transition to a civilian government, protests continue.[9]
Parties to the civil conflict

Different groups of civil movements and individual people

 Sudan

Lead figures
Non-centralized leadership

Dec. 2018 – Apr. 2019
Omar al-Bashir
President of Sudan

Mohamed Tahir Ayala
Prime Minister

Motazz Moussa
Prime Minister

Mohammed Hamdan Dalgo (Hemaidttie)
Head of the Rapid Support Forces

Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf
Sudanese Minister of Defense

Salah Mohammed Abdullah (Gosh)
Head of National Intelligence and Security Service


Apr. 2019 – present
Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf
Chairman of the Transitional Military Council (April 11–12)

Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan
Chairman of the Transitional Military Council (April 12–)
Casualties
Death(s)>60[10]
Arrested800+

On December 19, 2018, a series of demonstrations broke out in several Sudanese cities, due in part to rising costs of living and deterioration of economic conditions at all levels of society.[11] The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.[12][13]

The violence of the government's reaction to these peaceful demonstrations sparked international concern. On 22 February, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and dissolved the national and regional governments, replacing the latter with military and intelligence-service officers.[14] On 8 March, al-Bashir announced that all of the women jailed for protesting against the government would be released.[15] On the weekend of 6–7 April, there were massive protests for the first time since the declaration of the state of emergency.[10] On 10 April, soldiers were seen shielding protesters from security forces,[16] and on 11 April, the military removed al-Bashir from power in a coup d'état.

Since al-Bashir was deposed, demonstrators have continued, as protestors organized by the Sudanese Professionals Association and democratic opposition groups have engaged in street demonstrations, calling on the ruling Transitional Military Council to "immediately and unconditionally" step aside in favor of a civilian-led transitional government, and urging other reforms in Sudan.[17][9]

Background[edit]

Al-Bashir has ruled the country since 1989, when he led a successful coup against the elected, but increasingly unpopular, prime minister of the time, Sadiq al-Mahdi.[18] The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.[19]

In January 2018, large protests started on the streets of Khartoum, Sudan's capital, in opposition to the rising prices of the basic goods including bread. The protests grew quickly and found support from different opposition parties. Youth and women's movements also joined the protests.[20]

The Sudanese government devalued the local currency and removed wheat and electricity subsidies. Sudan's economy has struggled since Omar al-Bashir's ascent to power, but became increasingly turbulent following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which, up until then, had represented an important source of foreign currency, because of its oil output.[21][22] The devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October 2018 led to wildly fluctuating exchange rates and a shortage of cash in circulation.[22] Long queues for basic goods such as petrol, bread, as well as cash from ATMs are a common sight. Sudan has around 70% inflation, second only to Venezuela.[22]

In August 2018, the National Congress party backed Omar Al-Bashir's 2020 presidential run, despite his increasing unpopularity and his previous declaration that he would not run in the upcoming elections.[23] These measures led to rising opposition from within the party calling for respect of the constitution, which currently prevents Al-Bashir from being reelected. Sudanese activists reacted on social media and called for a campaign against his nomination.[23]

Opposition groups and figures[edit]

The Sudanese Professionals Association has coordinated the protests.[24] The group is a civil society organization[25] and an umbrella group of trade unions for professionals.[26] The group is composed of doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, pharmacists, and others.[24][27][28][29] The group, established in 2012, operated mostly clandestinely during al-Bashir's regime, when the group was in order to avoid arrest.[28][29] The core of the group consists of urban middle-class professionals.[29]

Other Sudanese opposition groups include the Nidaa Sudan (which includes the Umma Party, Sudanese Congress Party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement) and the National Consensus Forces (consisting of the Sudanese Communist Party and the Sudanese Ba'ath Party).[30] The Sudanese opposition to al-Bashir was initially fractured, but in January 2019 unified in a coalition called the Alliance for Freedom and Change.[30][31] The Freedom and Change Charter signed by the alliance participants called for the collapse of the regime and a transition to democracy under a civilian government.[31]

Timeline[edit]

A protest gathering at night

December 2018[edit]

The most recent waves of protests began on 19 December 2018 in response to the tripling of the price of bread in Atbara, then quickly spread to Port Sudan, Dongola and the capital Khartoum. Protestors set fire to the national party headquarters in Atbara and Dongola.[32] Authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, causing dozens of deaths and injuries.[33] The former prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, returned to the country on the same day.[32]

Access to social media and instant messaging was cut on 21 December by the country's major service providers, with technical evidence collected by the NetBlocks internet observatory and Sudanese volunteers indicating the installation of "an extensive Internet censorship regime".[34][35] Curfews were issued across Sudan, with schools closed throughout the country.[36]

January 2019[edit]

Protesters greeting the Sudanese Army

By 7 January 2019 over 800 anti-government protesters were arrested and 19 people, including security officials, were killed during the protests.[37]

On 9 January, thousands of protesters gathered in the southeastern city of El-Gadarif.[38]

Protests organized by the Sudanese Professionals Associations led to a doctor being shot on 17 January,[39][40] and to allegations that hospitals were being targeted by security forces.[41]

February 2019[edit]

Media coverage of the protests was strictly controlled by security forces. Al Tayyar began printing blank pages to show the amount of government-censored copy. Other news outlets have seen their entire print run confiscated by the government. The security service (NISS) raided Al Jarida's offices again, which has led the latter to stop producing its print version. According to The Listening Post, foreign Arabic-language videographers have been particularly targeted by the government.[42][43]

A "senior military source" told Middle East Eye that Salah Gosh, head of Sudanese intelligence, had the support of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to replace al-Bashir as president, citing his private talks with Yossi Cohen at the Munich Security Conference as evidence (15–17 February).[14]

On 22 February, Bashir declared a yearlong state of national emergency, the first in twenty years.[44][45] Bashir also announced the dissolution of the central governments and the regional governments, and replaced regional governors with military generals.[45][46] The next day he appointed his chosen successor, Mohamed Tahir Ayala, as Prime Minister and former intelligence chief and current Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf as first vice president. His intelligence chief also announced that he would not seek re-election in 2020 and would resign from the head of the National Congress Party.[44] Ahmed Haroun, also wanted by the ICC for war crimes, replaced Al-Bashir as leader of the National Congress party. Officers from the military and intelligence services were put in charge of provincial governments after the dissolution.[47][14]

Security forces raided universities in Khartoum and Ombdurman, reportedly beating students with sticks in Khartoum on 24 February.[48] On the same day, al-Bashir issued decrees banning unauthorized demonstrations, prohibiting the illegal trade of fuel and wheat under threat of 10-year prison sentences; banning the "unauthorized circulation of information, photos or documents that belong to the president's family"; and introducing capital controls on the trade of gold and foreign currency.[49]

March 2019[edit]

On 7 March, protests were organized to honor women for their leading role in the uprising.[50] "You women, be strong" and "This revolution is a women's revolution" were slogans chanted at several protests.[51] On 8 March, Omar al-Bashir ordered that all the women who had been arrested for participating in anti-government demonstrations be freed.[15] Protestors named a Khartoum neighborhood park (in Burri) after one such woman, who had been sentenced to 20 lashes and one month in prison by an emergency court, then freed on appeal. The sentence of flogging, first introduced during British colonization in 1925, aims at discouraging Sudanese women from political activism. According to the Democratic Lawyers Alliance, at least 870 people have been tried in the newly-established emergency courts.[52]

April 2019[edit]

On 6 April, days after Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to step down to appease Algerian protesters,[53] the Association of Sudanese Professionals called for a march to the headquarters of the armed forces. Hundreds of thousands of people answered the call. According to one protester, divisions appeared between the security forces, who "tried to attack the demonstrators coming from the north", and the military, who "took the demonstrators' side and fired back." A sit-in then started at the military headquarters in Khartoum and continued throughout the week. On the morning of 8 April, the army and the rapid reaction force of the secret services were facing off at the armed forces headquarters in Khartoum.[10][54]

On 7 April, Sudan "experienced a complete power outage on Sunday, just hours after a social media block took effect across the country."[55]

On 8 April, the Association of Sudanese Professionals issued a press release that calls for "the formation of a council comprising the DFC forces and collaborating revolutionary forces, charged with the task of liaising with the state’s regular forces as well as with local and international actors to finalize the process of political transition and the handing over of power to a transitional civilian government that enjoys the support of the people and reflects the aspirations of the revolutionary forces".[56]

According to the interior minister, there were six deaths, 57 injuries, and 2500 arrests in Khartoum over the weekend. Police were under orders not to intervene.[57]

Also on 8 April, a video of a young woman named Alaa Salah leading a musical protest chant to a crowd standing on top of a car began circulating on WhatsApp. Quickly the image became viral online with Salah becoming a symbol of the protests in the country. It also brought attention to women's involvement and leadership in the protest movement.[58]

On 11 April, Bashir was ousted from presidency and placed under house arrest by the military.[7][59] The European Union and the United States called for a UN Security Council meeting.[60] State media reported that all political prisoners, including anti-Bashir protest leaders, were being released from jail.[61] A curfew was also put in place between 10 pm to 4 am.[61] Despite the imposed curfew, protesters remained on the streets.[62]

On the evening of 12 April, the head of the transitional military council in Sudan, Awad Ibn Auf, announced his resignation following intense protests. Ibn Auf said that he had chosen Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, the army's inspector-general, to succeed him. The protesters were "jubilant" upon hearing this announcement as he was one of the generals who reached out to the protestors during the sit-in.[63][64] Burhan is also "not known to be implicated in war crimes or wanted by international courts."[64]

On 13 April, talks between the military and the protestors officially started.[65] This came following announcements that the curfew imposed by Auf was lifted, that an order was issued to complete the release of those who were jailed under emergency laws issued by al-Bashir. It was also announced that intelligence and security chief Salah Gosh had resigned. Amnesty International asked the military coalition to investigate his role in protesters' deaths.[66][65]

On 14 April it was announced that council had agreed to have the protestors nominate a civilian Prime Minister and have civilians run every Government ministry outside the Defense and Interior Ministries.[67] The same day, military council spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi Shinto announced that Auf had been removed as Defense Minister and that Lt. General Abu Bakr Mustafa had been named to succeed Gosh as chief of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).[68]

On 15 April, military council spokesman Shams al-Din Kabbashi announced "The former ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will not participate in any transitional government," despite not being barred from future elections.[69][70] The same day, prominent activist Mohammed Naji al-Asam announced that trust was also growing between the military and the protestors following more talks and the release of more political prisoners, despite a poorly organized attempt by the army to disperse the sit-in.[71] It was also announced that the military council was undergoing restructuring, which began with the appointments of Colonel General Hashem Abdel Muttalib Ahmed Babakr as army chief of staff and Colonel General Mohamed Othman al-Hussein as deputy chief of staff.[72]

On 16 April, the military council announced that Burhan once again cooperated with the demands of the protestors and sacked the nation's three top prosecutors, including chief prosecutor Omar Ahmed Mohamed Abdelsalam, public prosecutor Amer Ibrahim Majid, and deputy public prosecutor Hesham Othman Ibrahim Saleh.[73][74] The same day, two sources with direct knowledge told CNN that Bashir, his former interior minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and Ahmed Haroun, the former head of the ruling party, will be charged with corruption and the death of protesters.[75]

On April 17, al-Bashir was transferred from house arrest in the Presidential Palace to the Kobar maximum security prison in Khartoum where he is reportedly in solitary confinement.[76][77][78] The prison, which also holds other allies of al-Bashir,[78] was notorious for holding political prisoners during al-Bashir's time in power.[78][77] Military council spokesman Shams Eldin Kabashi added that two of al-Bashir's brothers, Abdullah and Alabas, were also arrested.[79]

On April 18, crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands demonstrated to demand civilian rule. The demonstration was the largest since al-Bashir was deposed.[9] Protest leaders also announced plans to name their own transitional council in two days' time if the military junta refused to step aside.[80][24]

On April 21, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan asserted in an interview that "The transitional military council is complementary to the uprising and the revolution" and "is committed to handing over power to the people."[81] On the same day, protest leaders broke off talks with the military authorities—stating that the military junta was not serious about transferring power to civilians and that the junta was composed of remnants of al-Bashir's Islamist regime—and vowed to intensify demonstrations.[82] On the same day, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged $3 billion in aid to the military authorities.[82]

Slogans[edit]

"Tasgut bas" slogan sketch

Similar to other protests, the Sudanese protestors have chanted slogans demanding the fall of the current regime. These slogans include "Freedom, peace and justice,"[83] "We are all Darfur,"[22] and "Just fall – that is all",[84] among others.[85]

Slogans which were widespread since 19 December 2018 included “Freedom, peace, justice” and “Revolution is the people’s choice” and video footage showed men and women, many wearing masks, shouting slogans against the government.[86]

Just fall – that is all[edit]

The slogan "Just fall – that is all" (تسقط – بس tasquṭ bas) was first used on Twitter and Facebook pages during the protests of 22 December 2018 and has thereafter been widely used.[84]

Freedom, peace and justice[edit]

This slogan was the first to be used in downtown Khartoum where demonstrators chanting "freedom, peace and justice" and "revolution is the people’s choice" were met with tear gas. The organizers of this particular march were "professionals, including doctors, engineers, and teachers."[87][88]

We are All Darfur[edit]

The slogan "You arrogant racist, we are all Darfur!" was used in Khartoum in response to the targeting of students from Darfur[89] by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents in relation to allegations of a planned attack.[90] According to Radio Dabanga, the NISS claimed that a number of Darfuri students had been trained by the Israeli Mossad to carry out acts of sabotage.[91] The 32 Darfuri students who are studying at the University of Sennar in eastern Sudan were arrested in Sinnar and transported to Khartoum where they subsequently confessed "under duress."[92]

Reactions[edit]

International organizations[edit]

  • United Nations On 28 December 2018, two United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed alarm about reports of government violence (using live ammunition) against protestors and concern about "arbitrary arrests and detentions".[93]
  • African Union On 16 April 2019, the African Union announced that Sudan would be removed from its membership unless a civilian government were appointed within two weeks.[75]

Arab states[edit]

  •  Egypt – Egypt sent its minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry to become the first Arab official to announce its support of the Sudanese government. "Egypt is confident that Sudan will overcome the present situation," Shoukry said, adding that "Egypt is always ready to support Sudan and the ability of Sudanese people as per the government of Sudan's vision and policies."[94]
  •  Qatar – The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hammad declared his support of Omar al-Bashir, whose first international trip since the uprising began was to visit the Emir. No financial support was announced after this meeting.[95]
  •  Saudi ArabiaKing Salman of Saudi Arabia has sent a diplomatic delegation calling for the stability of Sudan and stating that the security of Sudan is part of the security of the (Saudi) kingdom itself.[96]
  •  United Arab Emirates – The UAE has announced plans to support the shortages of the Sudanese economy and provided 1.12 million tonnes of fuel and allocated $300 million to finance Sudan's agriculture.[97][98]

Other states[edit]

  •  Norway,  United Kingdom,  United States – On 10 April, the Troika issued a statement urging the government to heed the protesters calls for political transition: "The Sudanese people are demanding a transition to a political system that is inclusive and has greater legitimacy. The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for political transition. Failing to do so risks causing greater instability. The Sudanese leadership has a grave responsibility to avoid such an outcome."[99]
  •  Turkey,  Russia – offered fuel and wheat, according to Sudan's Oil Minister.[97]
  •  United Kingdom – On 14 January, British ambassador to Sudan Irfan Siddiq said he urged the Sudanese government to avoid violence with the protesters and to release the political detainees saying "No more use of force, credible investigations into killings, release of political detainees, freedom of media and respect for the sanctity of hospitals and work of medics all essential steps."[100]
  •  United States – On 23 January, the United States announced its concern over the arrests and detentions, calling for the Sudanese government to release journalists, activists, and peaceful protesters arbitrarily detained during the protests, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino announced "We call on the government to allow for a credible and independent investigation into the deaths and injuries of protesters."[101] On April 19, the U.S. government called on the Sudanese military to give way to a civilian-led transitional government "that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law."[9]

Commentary[edit]

Giorgio Cafiero, founder of Gulf States Analytics, framed the protests and the subsequent coup in Sudan in geopolitical context where regional power, mainly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, were playing a major role in what he called "a counter-revolution." Cafiero added that "if a growing number of Sudanese citizens share a perception of Gulf states pursuing counter-revolutionary agendas in Sudan, more voices across the country could begin blaming such foreign governments for dimming their hopes for achieving democratic change."[102]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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