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Sudan crying for civilian-led authority, all about crisis in Khartoum

Sudan's ruling military council has for the first time admitted it ordered the dispersal of Khartoum protest that left scores dead.

Subhro Prakash Ghosh
Updated: 15-06-2019 01:55 IST
Sudan crying for civilian-led authority, all about crisis in Khartoum

The armed military men conducted severe crime against humanity on June 3 by killing around 118 people and leaving hundreds of protestors wounded during a crackdown on protest camp. Image Credit: Reuters

The crisis in Sudan is rapidly escalating, and since the security forces opened fire on the civilians who were urging for democracy in the capital city of Khartoum, the political crisis worsened in the Northeast African country. Despite severe attempts to make negotiations between the government and opposition, nothing fell in line and situation degraded when a military crackdown on June 3 left over hundreds of protestors dead. The dozens of bloated corpses were thrown in the Nile river.

The army notified that it had scrapped all agreements with the opposition and the elections will be conducted within nine months. But a transition period of a minimum of three years has been demanded by the protestors to ensure elections are free and fair. Majority of country's portion was veiled by an open-ended strike called by the opposition.

How all this started

The current crisis is a conflict between Sudan's security forces and pro-democracy civilians. The unrest can be traced back to December 19, 2018, when the Sudanese government decided to triple the price of daily consumables such as bread and fuel. During that time, President Omar al-Bashir's government declared an emergency to stave off economic collapse. Again in February, Omar al-Bashir initially announced that he would step down as head of the ruling party as tens of thousands of protestors started demanding an end to his 30-year rule; but soon his tone changed and he declared an emergency for one year. He immediately appointed new state governors who were all from the military. The protest reached the acme on April 6 when the protestors occupied the square in front of the military's headquarters with a demand that the Sudanese army should overthrow the President.

On April 11, the Sudanese military ousted Omar al-Bashir and arrested him after three decades in power. On April 17, he was moved from house arrest to Kobar prison in Khartoum. The prosecutors charged him on May 13 with 'inciting and participating in' the killing of protestors. The charges are related to 'suspected illicit wealth and emergency order', according to the public prosecutors. Earlier, the International Criminal Court based in The Hague had already issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir in 2010 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. The government under his rule forcefully ostracized aid agencies from Sudan, which further endangered the plights for thousands of displaced and marginalized civilians.

Over hundred killed and wounded after Omar al-Bashir was ousted

Since Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the Sudanese military in April, Sudan has been ruled by a military council. The Transitional Military Council is led by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

After Omar al-Bashir was ousted, the protestors' representatives started discussions with the military on the formation of a transitional sovereign council. Days after talks of pursuing a civilian rule broke down (as the military council was not ready to accept protestors' demands), the armed men conducted severe crime against humanity on June 3 by killing around 118 people and leaving hundreds of protestors wounded during a crackdown on protest camp. Many were later said to have been beaten, arrested and over 70 women were raped by paramilitaries.

Since then, Sudan was observing civil disobedience campaign by the protest leaders with a demand for the establishment of a transitional sovereign council. Yasir Arman told Reuters that 'the military council wanted to divide the oppositions to have a deal with them that would keep them in power.' A day after Yasir Arman's comment, he had been tied up and flown out of Khartoum on a military helicopter. He is one of the three officials from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North.

Ethiopian PM's mediated to control the boiling situation

Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed arrived in Sudan's capital, Khartoum to negotiate a peace treaty between the current ruling provincial military council and protestors. The media reported that the Ethiopian leader met with representatives of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, demand for which created a coalition of protests and continuing campaign even after ousting of al-Bashir.

After days of discussions, on June 11, Mahmoud Dirir, the special envoy of Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed declared that protesting leaders had agreed to suspend widespread strikes and return to the negotiating table. And in return, what Mahmoud Dirir announced, the military had agreed to release political prisoners.

How does the international community respond despite Internet blackout

On the other hand, the US and the African Union have consistently pushed for the civilian-led rule in Sudan. The protestors have already demanded that any talks with the military would only be possible in the presence of a third party. They have insisted that any agreement to be reached with the military rulers should be backed by 'regional and international' guarantees. On Thursday, June 13, US' newly appointed special envoy to Sudan Donald Booth, along with US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs Tibor Nagy met head of the military council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The US envoys have asked the military council head to stop attacks on the civilians, withdraw soldiers from Khartoum and stop repression of freedom of speech and the Internet.

For over a week, a state-imposed Internet blackout persists in Sudan, which makes the task of activists and civilians more difficult to let the world know what's happening in the Northeast African country. However, most of the African countries including the West have taken the side of the protestors. The African Union has suspended Sudan following the military's crackdown over the protestors and announced that the suspension would continue until a civilian-led transitional authority is being placed. Event of June 3 was severely condemned by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom laid full responsibility with the military council.

Millions of civilians in Sudan are constantly living in fear of their lives but their voices are unheard to the world due to severe Internet blackout. Except through the news by the agencies, it is not possible to know what's exactly happening in Sudan in reality. Even Hollywood celebrities like Rihanna and Ne-Yo took to social media to raise awareness about the massacre and media blackouts, whereas the renowned American filmmaker, George Clooney recently published an article with Politico sharing his opinion that the international community must go after illicit money from Sudan.

The New York-based Sudanese beauty blogger, Shahd Khidir shared an emotional video a week back in which she revealed that her friend had recently been tormented and murdered by the Rapid Support Forces.

Recent updates

Sudan's ruling military council has for the first time admitted it ordered the dispersal of Khartoum protest that left scores dead. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) had "decided to disperse the sit-in", said spokesman Shams al-Din Kabashi on Thursday, June 13. "We ordered the commanders to come up with a plan to disperse this sit-in. They made a plan and implemented it ... but we regret that some mistakes happened," TMC spokesman Kabashi said on Thursday.

According to BBC's latest update, Sudan's former President, al-Bashir has been charged with corruption, two months after the long-serving autocrat's ouster. The public prosecutor's office revealed that the charges are related to laws on 'suspected illicit wealth and emergency orders' without releasing much details. "Charges have been raised against the deposed president related to possession of foreign currency, and illicit and suspicious enrichment," the unnamed official told Sudan's state news agency SUNA without details. The agency further added that the anti-corruption prosecution had accomplished all investigations in a criminal lawsuit against al-Bashir.

Sudan requires absolute civilian-led authority

As already cited, after the crackdown on June 3 on civilians in Khartoum, the African Union (AU) immediately suspended Sudan in all its activities until the 'immediate establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority.' AU initially turned out soft in April by giving a 60-days deadline (after al-Bashir was overthrown) in establishing a civilian-led transitional authority. But recently, it exerted that immediate transition to civilian rule 'is the only way to allow Sudan to exit from the current crisis.'

The international team of diplomats is giving their endeavours in resolving the crisis. US' envoys have already had rounds of discussions with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. The news is that The Freedom and Change alliance have finally agreed to end the civil disobedience campaign effective from June 12, and 'both the sides have agreed to resume talks soon' on the handover of power to a civilian administration. However, TMC is yet to give any comment on it.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN : Devdiscourse News Desk