“Heavy gunfire was heard in the capital of Sudan as the military moved in to break up a protest camp on Monday morning, just days after the country’s security forces ruled the sit-in a national security threat, protestors said.”Eli Ridder, Porter Medium (03/JUN/2019)
Over 60 people were killed and 300 were wounded on June 3rd after troops dispersed a camp in front of the Defense Ministry headquarters. They were protesting in favor of a transition towards democracy after a 30 year one-party rule. Such events highlight the underreported but ongoing Sudanese protests.
Sudan’s protests rose considerably in 2019. The graph below depicts how the year has been looking so far. In total, there have been up to 640 protests in 2019 (counting until mid July), with 171 fatalities, according to ACLED’s database.
In addition, the second most frequent events are violence against civilians, which can be attributed to how Sudanese authorities handle the protests. A clear example happened when troops dispersed a protest camp on the 3rd of June, as mentioned before.
Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan since the coup d’etat in 1989. Jumping towards 2018, Sudan was experiencing an economic crisis caused by the separation of South Sudan in 2011, which represented three quarters of Sudan’s oil exports.
As a consequence, the government under al-Bashir decided to cut wheat subsidies, thus increasing bread prices, and printed more money. This caused an inflation rate comparable to Venezuela’s, hence a shortage for bread, fuel, and medicine, between other basic goods, appeared.
On August 2018, president al-Bashir and his party announced his candidacy for a new presidential term for 2020. The announcement sparked a wide discontent among the Sudanese population, taking the form of nationwide protests. There was no organized opposition group.
“Calls for regime change are widespread. District offices of Mr. Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) have been burned. On January 6th, protesters marched on the presidential palace to deliver a petition for Mr Bashir to resign.”The Economist
The protests began in 2018, and rose drastically in 2019, as seen in the graph below. This coincides with the organization of most opposition groups, on January 2019, into a single entity known as The Alliance of Freedom and Change.
Additionally, in 2019, most of the protests were peaceful, while almost other 150 protests experienced an intervention by the police or the military. Additionally, over 50 cases underwent the use of force.
Moreover, the majority of the protests are located near the capital, Khartoum, and surroundings, i.e. in the western part of the country. Public demonstrations also occurred in the southern parts.
The “Nubian Queen”
Protests continued happening on a regular basis. The 8th of July, student Alaa Salah became the symbol of the protests, after addressing the crowd with chants.
The photo went viral, nicknaming her “The Nubian Queen”. Nowadays, women that take part in the protests are called this way, making a reference to their past.
The 8th of April, the military deposed Omar al-Bashir, and placed him under house arrest. The military quickly declared a state of emergency over the country, and formed a military transitional council that would govern for two years, and elections held thereafter.
However, the Alliance of Freedom and Change (AFC) called for further protests, since the government was controlled by the military again, and feared they were not going to hold elections in the future.
“Sudan’s army warned it would enforce a night-time curfew, state media reported, as protesters vowed to continue demonstrating against a military council set up after president Omar Al-Bashir was toppled.”Arab News [12/APR/2019]
Afterwards, negotiations started between the new government and the opposition regarding handing the government to the civilians; the latter advocated for an immediate transition, whereas the former remained with their original position of having elections in two years.
Negotiations continued while protests were taking place all over Sudan. Some key dates are the following:
- June 3rd: Protesters set camp at the Defense Ministry headquarters. The armed forces scattered the protest. The death toll was between 62 and 118 people. Also known as the “Khartoum massacre”.
- July 5th: The military and the opposition reached a deal. As a result, the government should be composed by civilians and military alike, and rotate the power for three years.
- July 17th: Signing of the prior deal in hopes of ending the turmoils, and violence.
- July 29th: The ‘Million-Person-March’ happened to protest against military violence, despite already reaching a deal at the beginning of the month. The negotiations stagnated due to disagreements while wording the new constitution. Yet again, the military dispersed the protest, and four people perished.
To sum up, Sudan is experiencing a Sudanese transition towards democracy. The country abruptly ended a 30 year one party rule, and is still protesting so that the military hand the government to the civilians.
Furthermore, over 640 protests have occurred since the beginning of 2019. This drastic rise appeared after the opposition conformed itself into a single group, the Alliance of Freedom and Change.
Finally, protests will continue until civilians are in complete control of the government, and if all parties within the alliance agree onto the constitution.
Nevertheless, if the opposition group splits after obtaining the government, it is probable that protests will continue, yet at minor scale, and possibly until elections are held. Despite this, hopes for peace and better economic opportunities are high among the Sudanese.
Database: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED); https://www.acleddata.com.