Please wait while we get your page ...

Sudan Unrest: As The World Looks the Other Way External Players Take Center Stage
Sudan Unrest: As The World Looks the Other Way External Players Take Center Stage

By - Adedoyin Shittu

Posted - 07-03-2020

Since South Sudan seceded from the North East part of Sudan in 2011, the loss of oil revenue from the south saw Sudan suffer  a deepening of it’s previously concealed Economic crisis due to the abrupt foreign currency shortages and long queues at bakeries and gas stations.

Analysts also blamed the economic crisis on economic mismanagement, corruption, and the impact of U.S. sanctions due to terrorism allegations leveled against the government of the country.

In October 2017, the United States lifted some trade and economic sanctions on Sudan, but Sudan remained on the list of countries that the United States considers to be sponsors of terrorism.

Demonstration broke out at the capital of the country (Khartoum) in December 2018, to protest the rising cost of bread and fuel, this spread to other cities in the country.

Though Sudan is no stranger to civil unrest but the protest that broke out brought Sudanese from all walks of life on to the streets. The organisation of the demonstrations was taken on by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a collaboration of doctors, health workers and lawyers.

The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Omar al-Bashir to step down just like the Arab Spring of the lat 2010.

The protest reached a climax on the 6th of April and the President was ousted by the military on the 11th of April, 2019.

After 30 years of autocratic rule, Omar al-Bashir was finally replaced by a  transitional military council.

The military announced that there would be a three-month state of emergency and a two-year transition period to prepare for civilian rule.

This move did not go down well with the Sudanese people.

Immediately it was announced, the SPA called on Sudanese people to resist the military by embarking on a sit-in outside the military Headquarters. This is in defilement to the curfew imposed by the military.

The SPA said the coup was led by a handful of military officials who were close to the former president and implicated in the problems that people were demonstrating about. Overthrowing the president was used as a guise to continue to rule in the same regime and to avoid punishment for corruption crimes levelled against the regime.

Demands of the Protesters

Since the military overthrew Bashir, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan was named the head of the transitional military council, to become Sudan’s third leader.

After the departure of Bashir, the protesters have called on the country’s new ruling military council to meet the demands of their “revolution”.

This is an immediate transfer of power to a transitional civilian government to govern for a four-year term, followed by elections.

The dissolution of Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP), with its top leaders brought to justice – including the ousted president.

The confiscation of NCP properties.

The re-instatement of the country’s 2005 constitution, which the military council suspended shortly after ousting Bashir.

The liberation of all civilians detained in relation to the protest movement, as well as army and police personnel in detention for refusing to shoot at protesters.

An end to the state of emergency Bashir imposed on Feb 22, 2019 in the country.

Agreement reached between the Protesters and Military

The protesters want a civilian government but the military seem unwilling to give power to the civilian. At one point, the military agreed to a sort of power-sharing agreement that included a proposal for a ten-member transitional military council, seven of whom would be military. However, protesters want only one of the ten seats to go to the military.

Despite their disagreements over who should currently be in charge of Sudan, both the military and protesters have agreed on a couple of things regarding the post-transition government.

Firstly, the groups have agreed that this government will not be led by well-known politicians or the military but by technocrats — people who are “experts in the fields of their respective ministries” instead of career politicians.

They have also discussed the idea of a supreme council that would be above the government.

Concerning the ousted president, Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes over the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. The military says the ousted president is in custody and will be tried in the country.

Though the major demand of the protesters to include more of civilians in the transitional council have been vehemently opposed by the military.

Last Friday, General Salah Abdelkhalek, a top official in Sudan’s military council, revealed that the military would not allow civilians to have the majority on the transitional council. He added that “the most they would accept would be an equal split with civilians.”

Confrontations between the Military and Civilians

The onslaught of protesters the assault that began at dawn on Monday was the worst violence since Sudan’s military seized power in a coup in April.

Sudan Doctors Syndicate reports 35 dead, 12 of which have yet to be identified. 4 of them are children.

All were shot dead, with the exception of one who drowned, and two who were run over.

So far 650 persons have been reported injured in the uprising.

The attacks on Monday were reportedly led by soldiers, police and the notorious Rapid Support Forces, formerly known as the “Janjaweed”.

Live fire was used to disperse protesters participating in a sit-in that has gone on for weeks at the defence ministry.

Video clips, posted on social media, showed hundreds of protesters fleeing in terror as sustained bursts of gunfire erupted. In one video, an unarmed protester was shot and injured, falling to the ground after he confronted the attackers.

Witnesses reported that the military’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had also targeted hospitals, firing weapons and beating medical staff.


RSF is  a large paramilitary group that evolved from the Janjaweed militia. The paramilitary group was  implicated in the Darfur genocide. The RSF commander, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, is deputy leader of the military council.

The violent crackdown against protesters continued on Monday afternoon in Khartoum, Sudanese authorities reportedly ordered cellphone companies to halt their mobile internet services, making it more difficult for protesters to communicate. Some services were later restored.

This attack on protesters happening in the wake of the a whistle-stop tour  by the leader of the military council, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy to  Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi is worrisome, though not surprising.

On this first international visit since the coup, Dagalo pledged to continue Sudan’s military support for the Saudi Arabian military campaign in Yemen.

On numerous occasion, Dagalo has claimed that he is not seeking power, but his ambition is obvious. He said last week he was overseeing judicial proceedings against Bashir and 25 regime figures detained since the coup – thereby controlling the process and ensuring they pose no threat to the new order.

Dagalo is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Dagalo’s insistence on having an inbuilt majority in a proposed civilian-military power-sharing government triggered breakdown in talks with the opposition. And when the SPA called a general strike in response, it was Dagalo who threatened reprisals.

Leaders of the pro-democracy movement vowed that the protests will continue. They said their supporters were shutting down Khartoum’s airport as part of a widening strike action to put pressure on the military council that now controls the country.

A spokesman for the military council denied that the security forces were clearing away the protest camp, saying that the forces were merely trying to disperse “unruly” elements near the sit-in camp area.

The military council said it was still committed to a political settlement and was ready to resume negotiations with the pro-democracy movement, but the protest leaders said they were cancelling the talks because of Monday’s violence.

A Host of External Players Take the Stage to “Thwart” the People’s Wish

Following the breakdown of law and order in the country, it is probably no coincidence that the Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt have taken an interest in the affairs of Sudan.

In late April, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to send Sudan $3 billion worth of aid. The two Gulf Arab countries will deposit $500 million with the Sudanese central bank and send the rest in the form of food, medicine and petroleum products, their state news agencies said in parallel statements.

This is to support the military. This will be the first assistance from gulf nations sent to Sudan in several years.

According to  the Saudi Press Agency, this aid is “ to strengthen its financial position, ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and increase stability in the exchange rate,” said.

A visit to the Riyadh by the head of the military council and his deputy also cement the support of the autocratic country to military rule in Sudan. Pro-democracy protesters fear he has gained Saudi Arabia’s support for a plan to crush the street demonstrations and it came as no surprise that the military tried to use force and intimidation to silence pro democracy protesters in the country.

Though the African Union and the United Nations have come out in support of a civilian-led transitional government and have given the military 60 days (initially 15 days but was extended) to relinquish power. Nothing have materialised from the order.

According to A.U. Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, a military-led transitional council “is not acceptable,” though he did say that military members could be part of a civilian-majority government. The A.U. has given the.

Qatar and Turkey have also shown interest in the happenings in Sudan as the two countries have grown increasingly close to Sudan’s Islamists, who are also not in line with the protests.

In fact, none of these outside actors seem to be considering the wants of the protesters or “the development of a truly democratic Sudan.”

The World looks away as External players take the stage

Not so long ago, US was considered to be the Police of the world; wherever there is dispute, the U.S. send their army to restore peace or even to create “chaos”; that time has passed.

It seems the country under this administration sees only America interest first and nothing else, even when their ally (Saudi Arabia) is sending to aid to support a military that is going against the people’s wish and what the U.S. stands for.

Until recently, the U.S. placed sanctions on the regime. Now, a rare chance is here to firmly put in place a democratic government with the arrest of Bashir but the US is doing nothing.

The UK who colonised Sudan have also  kept mum while the military use brute force to resist the people wish overwhelmingly.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, are allies to the US and Britain and have enjoyed the support of the two countries.

These countries backed Bashir and are now backing (and financing) attempts to revive the pre-coup status quo under new leadership.

Sudan’s protesters were clear from the start that the regime, and not just its senior figures, must change. It is this crucial battle they are in danger of losing.

There have been an onslaught on rivalry and bullying on the International scene by President Trump this last fews weeks but when Sudan needs the backing of the democracy capital of the world, Washington looks on.

The U.S. stand for democracy but when Sudan is fighting for democracy and struggling with internal islamists, U.S. look the other way.

With competing internal and external interests, situation in Sudan is quickly evolving, only time can tell what will become of Sudan. Will the ousting of Bashir usher in democracy or go the same way as Egypt?

Leave a Reply