Sudan At The Cusp Of Revolution


Asif Haroon Raja l

Sudan had remained a colony of the British for 56 years after which it gained independence on January 1, 1956. Located in northeastern Africa, it shares border with Egypt to the north, Libya to the northwest, Eritrea and Chad to the east, Central African Union to the southwest, and Chad to the west. Red Sea is in the southeast. Later on in 2011, South Sudan became its 7th neighbor. Sudan has had troubled relations with many of its neighbors.

After two years of democracy, a military regime under Lt Gen Ibrahim was established in 1958 which lasted till 1964. The new government reverted to multi-party system. Col Jafar Numeri seized power in 1969, but he was deposed in a coup in April 1985 by Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahman. Gen Omar al-Bashir seized power in 1989 after he led a successful coup.

The country ruled by Gen Bashir remained engulfed in war in South Sudan, and tribal wars in western state of Darfur in 2003 and the two southern states of Kordufan and Blue Nile in 2011. Bashir also presided over the division of the country. Civil war in South Sudan which triggered in 1983 was brought to an end as a result of peace treaty in 2005 brokered by foreign powers. In the referendum held in January 2011, South Sudan became independent.

On 19 December 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. The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Gen. Bashir to step down.

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.

On 22 February 2019, Gen. Bashir declared a yearlong state of national emergency and dissolved the national and regional governments, replacing the latter with military and intelligence-service officers.

On 6–7 April, there were massive protests for the first time since the declaration of the state of emergency. On 11 April, the military removed Gen. Bashir from power in a coup d’état after his 30 years rule.

Following Gen. Bashir’s removal from power, and takeover by a seven-member Transitional Military Council (TMC) led by Lt Gen Awad Ibn Auf on 11 April, 2019, street protests organized by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) and democratic opposition groups continued, calling on the ruling TMC to “immediately and unconditionally” step aside in favor of a civilian-led transitional government, and urging other reforms in Sudan.

On the evening of 12 April, 2019, Auf announced his resignation following intense protests. He handed over his seat to Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al 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.

On 13 April, talks between the military and the protestors officially started after lifting of the curfew. An order was issued to release those who were jailed under emergency laws issued by Gen. Bashir. National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) Chief Salah Gosh resigned.

On 14 April the TMC agreed that the protestors will nominate a civilian Prime Minister and have civilians run every Government ministry outside the Defense and Interior Ministries.  Lt. Gen. Abu Bakr Mustafa succeeded Gosh as chief of NISS.

On 15 April, TMC announced that “The former ruling NCP will not participate in any transitional government,” despite not being barred from future elections.

Col. Gen. Hashem Abdel Muttalib Ahmed was appointed army chief of staff and Col. Gen. Othman al-Hussein as deputy chief of staff.

On 17 April, ousted President Gen. Bashir was transferred from house arrest in the Presidential Palace to solitary confinement at Kobar prison in Khartoum, a prison notorious for holding political prisoners during Gen. Bashir’s time in power. Two of Gen. Bashir’s brothers, Abdullah and Al Abbas, were also arrested.

On 18 April, crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands demonstrated to demand civilian rule. Protest leaders also announced plans to name their own transitional council in two days’ time if the military junta refused to step aside.

On 21 April, head of TMC promised to hand over power to the people. Nevertheless, protest leaders broke off talks with the military authorities the same day—saying that the military junta was not serious about transferring power to civilians and that the junta was composed of remnants of Gen. Bashir’s Islamist regime—and vowed to intensify demonstrations.

On 27 April, an agreement was reached to form a transitional council made up jointly of civilians and military, though the exact details of the power-sharing arrangement were not yet agreed upon, as both sides wanted to have a majority. The military also announced the resignation of the three TMC members Lt. Gen. Omar Zain al-Abideen, Lt. Gen. Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh and Lt. Gen. Al-Tayeb Babakr Ali Fadeel, who had submitted their resignations on 24 April.

The military and protesters agreed on 15 May to a three-year transition period to civilian rule. The protest movement insisted a transition period of at least three years was needed to wash away the effects of Bashir’s rule and to ensure free and fair elections.

The two sides also agreed on the structure of a new government – including a sovereign council, a cabinet and a legislative body. But soon after, TMC scrapped all of these agreements on 3 June and said fresh elections would be held within nine months. It stopped negotiating with the ‘Alliance for Freedom and Change’ (AFC) and cancelled what had been agreed on.

Negotiations collapsed when a military crackdown on a camp of protestors on 3 June killed 118 people, raped 70 and injured hundreds in Khartoum. Much of the country was then shut down by an open-ended strike called by the opposition.

On 8 June, the SPA warned of a wide campaign by the TMC of arresting political activists or threatening to kill them. A 3-day general strike and nationwide civil disobedience campaign was carried out from 9–11 June.

On 12 June, the TMC agreed to release political prisoners and the FCA agreed to suspend the general strike. The two sides also agreed “to resume talks soon” about forming a civilian government. The FCA prepared a list of eight civilian members for a 15-member transitional governmental council, including three women.

On 30 June, twenty thousand people protested in Khartoum and other cities and called for civilian rule and justice for the 3 June massacre. Ten people were killed during the demonstrations and 181 people injured among which 27 suffered gunshot wounds. 10 security personnel were also wounded.

On July 5, a landmark deal was signed between ruling TMC and the protest leaders to put an end to months of political unrest that had cost 136 lives since June 3, and had paralyzed life in Khartoum. After two days of negotiations, the power sharing deal was brokered by the mediating Ethiopia and AU. The two sides agreed to establish a sovereign council with a rotating military and civil presidency for a period of 3 years and 3 months. Final draft was inked on 8 July. The ruling body would include six civilians including five members from the protest group, and five from the military. During the transition period, the first 21 months will be presided by the military and the next 18 months by the civilians. The deal was rejoiced by the people.