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the sudan revolution: this is how it got here

June 12, 2019
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In the past 10 days, the Sudanese protestors advocating for a true and fair democracy have had to withstand an escalation of violence from an interim military power already infamous for the atrocities it has committed against the country’s non-Muslim populations. Sudan is a country whose independence has been mired by totalitarianism and the people are now paying dearly for knowing better than trusting a genocidal military to guide the country’s transition to democracy. There are reports on the ground of rape, murder and a list of acts that make the phrase “human rights violations” seem hollow. We cannot look away from Sudan, so the job of the international community is to understand the situation as best as it possibly can.

In 1956, Sudan gained it’s independence from British and Egyptian occupation, giving way to the birth of new African Republic. Yet, 33 years into its independence, Sudan became embroiled in a civil war between North and South that created an ample opportunity for its (now-former) president, Omar Al Bashir, to orchestrate a coup and seize power of the third largest country on the continent. What followed was 30 years of tyranny under an unrepentant dictator that also allowed the slaughter of non-Arab Sudanese in the nation’s Darfur region, by an Arab militia called the Janjaweed, the same militia that has recently been used by Sudan’s temporary military council to assault, murder and rape the crowds of protestors that managed to unseat the reign of the three-decade dictator.

The genocide in Darfur began in 2003 and made international headlines when aid workers and resources were blocked from entering the region. There was a cease-fire in 2004 brokered by the United Nations that didn’t last long; by 2007, the situation in the Darfur region had reached the level of a humanitarian tragedy, with between 80,000 – 500,000 people killed, and at least 2 million displaced in their efforts to escape the ongoing violence. The conflict remained mostly unresolved as the world moved on and Al Bashir’s reputation for violence against his own people became more “business as usual” to the international community than an actual ongoing crisis affecting an entire generation of Black African Muslims. In 2010, the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated that Al Bashir was criminally liable for the genocide in Darfur, issuing an arrest warrant on the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al Bashir became the first sitting head of state to be sought after by the ICC.

This brings us to the latest resistance. Al Bashir’s reign was defined by death and tyranny, and the ousting of the autocrat in January was an indication that Sudanese people could no longer live under such subjugation. The world only truly entered the conflict in April, when Alaa Salaah, a Sudanese student clad in white, took the internet by storm by addressing a crowd of protestors on top of a car. A symbol had been established even though the youth-led resistance had long been underway. The demonstrations had actually begun on the 19th of December, 2018, with Sudanese people at all levels of society protesting the impossible living conditions under Al Bashir, who was now 75 years old and rumored to be in poor health. On February 22nd, Al Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolving national and local government agencies. On March 8th, Al Bashir announced that all women jailed for protesting would be released but that didn’t placate the opposition;  a large protest took place in early April, the first since the declared state of emergency, that would serve as the final nail in the coffin of Al Bashir’s reign.

On April 11th, Omar Al Bashir was removed from office by Sudanese military forces and taken into custody. It was a win for the protestors, who did not relent, knowing the tendency of military governments who take advantage of power vacuums. They were not wrong. At first, the Transitionary Military Council (TMC) currently leading Sudan seemed willing to negotiate, but the continued protests following Al Bashir’s departure made clear the demand of an “immediate and unconditional” resignation of the TMC and the appointment of a civilian-led transitional government that would hold free and fair elections in Sudan. Negotiations between the TMC and protestors grew more precarious by the day. Last Monday (June 3rd), a demonstration by protestors in Khartoum was broken up by the Rapid Support Forces, a contemporary government militia made up of former members of Janjaweed. What followed throughout Khartoum was violence, including the targeted rape of women and men and the murder of, at last count, almost 200 people.

At this stage, the TMC has disabled the internet in Sudan, leaving protestors cut off from the world and struggling to organize. The resistance on the ground is now being forced to rethink their strategy while the TMC tries to spin the massacres by announcing a joint council that will be lead by a leading economist and appointed leaders from the opposition. These are merely delaying tactics because this is the same Council that announced that it wanted to resume negotiations just two days after carrying out the massacre in Khartoum, while bodies were being pulled out of the Nile. There is little to be expected from a power structure that utilized the same militia responsible for the war crimes in Darfur to put down the peaceful protests. In fact, General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, the man responsible for the massacre in Darfur, is in charge of the TMC.

What happens in Sudan from here on out will likely shape its trajectory for another generation — protestors on the ground understand that. In the face of unspeakable violence, they still fight because they have already sacrificed so much. What they have achieved is nothing short of remarkable. Sudanese people from every religion and socioeconomic class came together, making this the biggest democratic movement in the country’s history. They learned from other revolutions on the continent, not allowing the military regime to assume power and merely instill autocracy with another face. Women led the resistance with the help of Whatsapp groups and social media. Yet even after the shut-down of social media, demonstrations continue, despite the fact that protestors have had little help from the African Union and beyond. We cannot look away from Sudan because the success of the protestors campaign there would not only mean the deposition of an authoritarian regime but doing so by the people without Western intervention, building their democracy on their terms. That is why history is happening in Sudan at this very moment.

Our thoughts, hopes and prayers are with Sudan and we will be monitoring the situation and updating this article and the AFROPUNK social media feeds on possible ways to help when they become available. To our Sudanese family, we stand with you in your fight for your freedom. Aluta Continua.