The Arab-African nation of Sudan is currently facing a massive humanitarian crisis. The Sudanese people were fed up of Omar- Al Bashir’s 30-year-old authoritarian dictatorial regime due to a variety of factors, mainly the economic collapse brought on by years of US sanctions and loss of oil revenue by imposing drastic currency devaluation.
Hence, protests erupted in the Eastern part of the country on December 19, 2018, over living standards, but eventually, the widespread public discontent permeated into the capital Khartoum. Although initially the demonstrations were majorly focused on the rising prices eventually they were broadened and demands for removal of Bashir and his government were included.
The protests were spearheaded by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a union of doctors, health workers and lawyers, which called for marches towards the Presidential Palace demanding Bashir to step down. Eventually, the political parties also joined in and at one point, some soldiers were also seen supporting those involved in the protests.
One of the most significant and unique aspects of the protests is the widespread participation of women. They have and continue to play a very essential role in the revolution.
So, eventually, Omar Al Bashir was overthrown by a military coup on 11 April 2019, led by his first Vice President and defence minister Lt. Gen Awad Ibn Auf, who then established the Transitional Military Council to rule the country for the 2-year transitional period to prepare for civilian rule.
Auf further appeared to support the protestors. However, the very next day, Auf stepped down and handed power Lt. General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan. The immediate aftermath of this was that the SPA started demanding a civilian-led administration, and called on people to maintain a sit-in outside the military HQ in Khartoum.
Leading activists started to hit back saying they wouldn’t accept a military government, citing the military’s lack of transparency and unclear allegiances. The protests continued on and in the early hours of June 3, the TMC’s security forces including the Rapid Support Forces led by the deputy head of TMC General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti) attempted to break up the protests outside the army HQ in Khartoum using live ammunition and tear gas.
Similar attempts were made by the TMC to suppress sit-ins in other parts of the country. According to reports, more than 100 people were killed, hundreds more injured and some were even raped. Corpses and some people who were wounded were even thrown in the Nile river. However, the TMC denies this by claiming that only 40 people were killed.
The UN Security Council debated upon the situation in Sudan and the possibility of imposing sanctions. But not surprisingly, the drafted resolution failed to garner the necessary support and was vetoed by Russia and China. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council had voted on 6th June to suspend Sudan from all AU activities until a civilian government is formed.
The crisis in Sudan is really serious. Innocent people are being ruthlessly massacred for wanting democracy. It’s sad they’re being killed only because they want a better life for themselves and their compatriots. Further, most of the people and protestors believe that it isn’t Lt Gen Fattah who actually possesses power but Hemeti, who is the Deputy head of the TMC. Hemeti had commanded the “Janjaweed”, a militia recruited from nomadic Arab tribes which oversaw the genocide that had occurred in Darfur. They murdered thousands of minorities in Darfur during the genocide, and hence I don’t think that the TMC will steer Sudan towards democracy and a civilian government during the so-called “Transitional Period”.
It is high time that the international community does something decisive to support the Sudanese people in their battle for democracy. However, many powerful nations aren’t doing so in order to protect their vested interests. Saudi Arabia, that has massive influence in the Arab World is in a powerful position to influence what’s going on in Sudan. However, Hemeti and Saudi Arabia have very close relations. In fact, Saudi Arabia and UAE have pledged to send 3 billion dollars as “aid” to the TMC!
A major reason for the pally relations that Saudi has with Hemeti is the strategic importance of Sudan. This is because Hemeti had supplied them with thousands of troops of the RSF to join the Saudi- UAE led intervention in the Yemen War. Last month, Hemeti even visited Saudi Arabia for the first time after the protests and promised to provide support to Saudi against their arch-foe Iran as well as to continue deploying troops in Yemen.
The US probably won’t intervene within the crisis due to Saudi’s policy. The European Union is involved extensively in Sudan, however, it is only for their own interests. This is because Sudan acts as an axis for African migration into Europe. So, the Europeans started what is called the “Khartoum Process”, which ostensibly is meant to make migration routes safer. But in reality, the EU extends millions of dollars to African nations to prevent African refugees from migrating to Europe and to keep them in Africa. These funds usually end up in the hands of military forces like the RSF, which we know is controlled by Hemeti. Until the major countries put aside their selfish interests and intervene, the future of the Sudanese people appears pretty dark, currently with none of the major powers by their side, but the Sudanese still have hope and are protesting to make their aspirations for democracy into a reality.