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Sudan: In response to nation-wide protests, Omar al-Bashir declares a state of emergency and dissolves the government

On the 22nd of February 2019 Sudan’s president – Omar al-Bashir, dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency for one year. He addressed the nation on television by saying “I announce imposing a state of emergency across the country for one year and dissolving the government at the federal level and at the provincial levels.” Essentially, he warned his people of potential chaos dramatically similar to the one of the Arab Spring protests leading to massive civil wars in states like Yemen, Syria and Libya. Moreover, he invited the parliament to postpone the scheduled constitutional amendments that would have permitted him to run for yet another mandate next year. Omar al-Bashir is a former army officer and an Islamist who managed to seize power in 1989 through a coup d’etat. Ever since, he has consistently refused to step down (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

Recently, al-Bashir has been presented with the most sustained challenge to his long-standing  rule – a multitude of widespread protests. Anti-government rebels have raged in the capital of Sudan – Khartoum, as well as in other towns all across the country in an effort to push the president to withdraw from his post, after holding a firm grip of power for thirty consecutive years. Initially, the uprisings started as an opposition to the increased prices but have since transformed into the greatest challenge to al-Bashir’s rule. The protests erupted in December 2018 and took the lives of nearly 60 people in violent clashes of civilians with security and forces. However, the government claims the death toll is lower, placing the number at 32. In an effort to crack down on the uprisings, the National Intelligence and Security Service detained hundreds of rebels and activists, arrested journalists and oppositional leaders. Nevertheless, the Sudanese Professionals Association, who is leading the uprisings, replied to the president’s announcement of state of emergency by pushing him to step down immediately: “We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved” (Deutsche Welle “Sudan’s Bashir”).

As a matter of fact, in October 2007 the US removed a long-standing trade embargo on Sudan that lasted for twenty years. This move was expected to ameliorate Sudan’s otherwise desperate economic situation, which worsened significantly upon the gaining of independence of South Sudan. The latter took place in 2011 as a result of a decades-long civil war. It led to the loss of one third of Sudan’s overall oil wealth. This forced the ruling elite of Sudan to seek support from gas-rich Turkey and Qatar (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”). The split between north and south inevitably brought about major economic repercussions for Sudan as a whole, where the economic system collapsed ever since. Chronic shortages of fuel and other inelastic basic goods were a commonplace with steadily rising prices for bread (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

In that regard, the primary reason for the emergence of the protest movements was the threefold raise of bread prices. Starting as a context-specific issue of discontent, these uprisings developed into a widespread expression of a broader dissatisfaction of the general population with the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in the country and ,crucially, al-Bashir’s thirty-year rule. On his part, the president labeled the protesters “infiltrators” for presenting an immense and unprecedented challenge to his autocratic rule. Therefore, security and government forces forcefully and violently cracked down on the demonstrations by deploying tear gas, live ammunitions and stun grenades in an effort to bring the movement to an end (Deutsche Welle “Wave of Protests”).

Notably, the protesters have been calling for peace, justice and freedom, and essentially an end to the decades-old military dictatorship bringing about human rights abuses, killings and economic grievances. However, even though the demonstrations in Sudan have been deemed to resemble the Arab Spring movements, they are found to share little similarities. For the most part, the Sudanese people are not partaking in an orchestrated demonstration but rather move spontaneously and in their own way. They have used the Arab Spring chant of “The people want to bring down the regime” but, arguably, there have been few points of comparison to be reasonably made between the Arab revolution and the Sudanese uprising (Deutsche Welle “Anger over Dictatorship”).

References:

Deutsche Welle. Anger over Dictatorship, Not Bread, Fueling Sudan Uprising | DW | 29.12.2018. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/anger-over-dictatorship-not-bread-fueling-sudan-uprising/a-46894036. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Sudan’s Bashir Declares State of Emergency, Dissolves Government as Protests Mount | DW | 22.02.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/sudans-bashir-declares-state-of-emergency-dissolves-government-as-protests-mount/a-47643590. (Accessed February 25, 2019).

Deutsche Welle. Wave of Protests Rock Sudan, at Least One Dead | DW | 24.01.2019. www.dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/wave-of-protests-rock-sudan-at-least-one-dead/a-47224745. (Accessed February 26, 2019).

Sudanese Media Under Al-Bashir’s Turmoil

By: Khalid Abdallah

It is a turning point in Sudan history, as the country enters the third week of mass demonstrations demanding that president Omar Al-Bashir’s regime steps down. The government tough procedures against media outlets and the press have been the main target of the government’s security apparatus; ranging from censorship to confiscations and prohibiting the journalists from writing.

A series of failure in policies for nearly thirty years have brought the country to the brink of collapse. The devaluation of Sudan’s currency, lack of bread, shortages of fuels and medicines are economically and politically related. However, the regime is taking many security steps against the media to control the crisis rather than dealing with the main problem, as a result a sharp censorship on newspapers was reinforced since 23th December, ahead of a mass demonstration on 25th December organized by Sudan Professionals Association. Security personnel would proof-read all newspapers before being published daily, taking out whatever items criticize the authorities. They also confiscated newspapers after being printed if they contained any critical remarks, on 1st January, 2019 – The Newspaper ( Al-Garida) was confiscated to repress independent coverage.
The social media platforms such as the Facebook and WhatsApp, have been shut down across the country since 20th December, after the starting day of the demonstrations. Activists were able to use VPN settings as an alternative outlet to keep publishing the news of the mass revolt.
On 27th December in the second week of the demonstration the Sudan Journalists Network announced a strike for three days based on security heavy hands on press. Following the attack on Al-Sudany newspaper whereby live ammunitions and sticks were used. Yasir Abdallah, the Editorial manager was injured. Many other journalists were arrested during the first week, some were taken to custody and released the same day.
In the same trend many regional and international correspondents were forbidden from covering the demonstrations, Yousra Elbagir the CNN correspondent was beaten and arrested by security individuals on 31st December demonstration as she twitted on her profile on Twitter. Another incident that transpired was Saad al-din Ibrahim, Alrabia TV correspondent was investigated by authority for covering the demonstration.
Locally, Sudanese Journalists Network emphasized that three journalists have been arrested recently, Kamal Krar, Fisal Mohammed Salih (released later on) and Gorashy Awad, related to the current events in Sudan. Other journalists have been prohibited from writing their daily columns among them Shameel Alnor and Mohammed Abdulmajed.
The member of the network Nasraldeen Altayeb stated that the freedom of press is facing gross violations by the government, he further explains cameras are not allowed on the streets and the government’s officials refuse to give any comments regarding the current situation on the ground.
The Sudanese government severe campaign against the press is intending to eradicate the current situation through security measures, 39 people have been killed according to Amnesty International but many activists on the ground estimate the number to be higher. This approach will not solve the issue rather it may lead to further escalation in a country that faces many unrests in Darfur, South Kordofan and The Blue Nile region.

Sadiq al-Mahdi on the future of Sudan

By Lisanne Boersma

On Friday the 16th of October, we had the honour to host an evening with the former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi about the future of Sudan. He has been elected prime minister of Sudan twice, and has been the only democratically elected leader of Sudan so far. Currently he is the leader of the Umma party, which is the largest party in Sudan. Although he is the head of Sudan Call (the organized opposition in Sudan) the Sudanese diaspora present didn’t simply accept his leadership, but presented him with pointed questions.

At times, al-Mahdi sounded like Mandela when he talked about the end of dictatorships, wars and poverty. But how do we know these aren’t simply hollow phrases? Like those of our mealy-mouthed leaders during the general assembly of the United Nations, bragging about peace, equality and prosperity, while their politics back home often show a different story. (see this video from 4:30 onwards)

Sadiq al-Mahdi believes in non-violent change and plays an active and important role in establishing the conditions for a democratic transition of Sudan. He wants to enact regime change through dialogue or peaceful protest. Regime change was a topic that popped up several times during the discussion. ‘What is needed for that?’, ‘With whom does one work together?’ etc. Another hot-button issue was of course what should happen to Al Bashir, the current president of Sudan. In March 2009, al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur. Should he be extradited to the ICC in The Hague, or not?

Al-Mahdi felt that this, at least for the moment, should not be the priority of the opposition. He agreed that al Bashir had committed crimes, but what Sudan needs is a reconciliation program, much like South Africa. Some of the people in the audience opposed this standpoint by stating that in order to reach a stable situation of peace, justice needs to be done first. Are these voices too impatient and perhaps no longer well informed about the complexity of the situation on the ground, or are they righteously fed up with the same empty promises that they have been hearing for decades?

 

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