Sudan protests: What is going on

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This is a draft explainer.  The purpose will be to have a quick explanation of what is going on, updated regularly.


The Republic of Sudan is a nation in North-East Africa with a population of 39.5 million people. Following two civil wars that lasted decades, in July 2011 Sudan separated into the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. Sudan has a predominantly Muslim population with Khartoum as it’s capital, and South Sudan has a large Christian and Animist population with the capital city being Juba.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power in Sudan in a bloodless military coup in 1989, ousting the democratically elected Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

al-Bashir was subsequently elected leader of the Revolutionary Command Centre for National Salvation (RCC) and introduced Islamic Sharia law in the north of the nation in 1991, before dissolving the RCC in 1993 and being named President. He won the election in 1996 after running unopposed, and  was re-elected again 2000, though the results have been questioned. In 2010 al-Bashir was re-elected President in the nations first multi-party contested elections since 1986,  however Western observers labelled the elections as criticised the polls as “not meeting international standards.”

Two arrest warrants have been issues for al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court. The first was issued in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and the second in 2010 for genocide. He had been the only serving head of state to be indicted for war crimes.

The 2018-2019 Sudanese protests

Recent protests began in December 2018 Khartoum over the al-Bashir government’s austerity measurements, that occurred following the devaluation of the Sudanese Pound and the January 2018 removal of wheat subsidies that lead to an increase in the price of bread.

These protests evolved to a nation-wide movement against the 75-year old President and his regime. In response the regime reportedly arrested members of an opposition coalition, as well as shutting down the internet and social media, and closing school and universities. More than 1,000 were reportedly detained by government forces, with the Sudanese media being censored and restricted.

On February 22 al-Bashir declared a year-long state of emergency. The first state of emergency in 20-years, al-Bashir replaced all state governors with military officials. At this time Defence Minister General Awad Ibn Auf was named first vice-President, as well as keeping his defence portfolio.

Protests continued throughout March and early April. Thousands reportedly began to mass in front of the military headquarters on April 6, the 34th anniversary of the non-violent uprising that removed then ruler Jaafar Nimeiri. Thousands continued protesting and camped in front of the headquarters throughout the week.

The removal of al-Bashir

On Thursday April 11, military vehicles entered the large compound in Khartoum that houses the defence ministry, the army headquarters and the President’s personal residence.

Speaking on state television, General Awad Ibn Auf declared the overthrow of President al-Bashir. It was also announced that a three month state of emergency had been declared and that the army would oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections.

“During this time, the armed forces will take on – with limited representation of the other elements of the Committee – the responsibility of administering the state and preventing the shedding of priceless Sudanese blood” said the General,  who had been the Vice-President and Defence Minister under al-Bashir’s regime.

al-Bashir was said to have been taken to a “safe place” after the “toppling of the regime,” though his exact whereabouts is not currently known. Sudanese Lt Gen Omar Zain al-Abidin told a media briefing that “Bashir will be tried in our judicial system,” and “we will have zero tolerance for those who kill citizens.”

General Awad Ibn Auf also announced the suspension of the nation’s 2005 constitution, closure of Sudan’s airspace for 24 hours, the cessation of border crossings until further notice and a 10pm to 4am curfew.

Despite this, large crowds were reported to have defied the curfew and remained on the streets.

“This is a continuation of the same regime,” said Sara Abdeljalil of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), the organisation that has been helping to lead the protests in Sudan. “So what we need to do is to continue the fight and the peaceful resistance.”

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