2018–19 Sudanese protests
|2018–19 Sudanese protests|
|Part of 2018–19 Arab protests|
Protesters in Khartoum in front of the Sudanese Army headquarters
|Date||19 December 2018 – 5 July 2019|
(6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days) Sporadic protests continue
|Parties to the civil conflict|
On 19 December 2018, a series of demonstrations broke out in several Sudanese cities, due in part to rising costs of living and deterioration of economic conditions at all levels of society. The protests quickly turned from demands for urgent economic reforms into demands for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
The violence of the government's reaction to these peaceful demonstrations sparked international concern. On 22 February 2019, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and dissolved the national and regional governments, replacing the latter with military and intelligence-service officers. On 8 March, al-Bashir announced that all of the women jailed for protesting against the government would be released. On the weekend of 6–7 April, there were massive protests for the first time since the declaration of the state of emergency. On 10 April, soldiers were seen shielding protesters from security forces, and on 11 April, the military removed al-Bashir from power in a coup d'état.
Following al-Bashir's removal from power, street protests organized by the Sudanese Professionals Association and democratic opposition groups continued, calling on the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) to "immediately and unconditionally" step aside in favor of a civilian-led transitional government, and urging other reforms in Sudan. Negotiations between the TMC and the civilian opposition to form a joint transition government took place during late April and in May, but stopped when the Rapid Support Forces and other TMC security forces killed 128 people, raped 70 and injured others in the Khartoum massacre on 3 June.
Opposition groups responded to the massacre and post-massacre arrests by carrying out a 3-day general strike from 9–11 June and calling for sustained civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance until the TMC transfers power to a civilian government. On 12 June the opposition agreed to stop the strike and the TMC agreed to free political prisoners; renewed negotiations to form a civilian government were planned.
A deal was agreed verbally between the TMC and the civilian protesters represented by the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) on 5 July and a written form of the agreement was signed by the TMC and FFC on 17 July 2019. The TMC and FFC announced that they would share power to run Sudan via executive and legislative institutions and a judicial investigation of post-coup events, including the Khartoum massacre, until elections occur in mid-2022. The deal plans for leadership of the sovereign council to be transferred from a military leader to a civilian leader 21 months after the transitional period begins, for a total of 39 months, leading to elections in 2022. The 17 July agreement states that it will be complemented by a constitutional declaration.
- 1 Background
- 2 Opposition groups and figures
- 3 Timeline
- 3.1 December 2018
- 3.2 January 2019
- 3.3 February 2019
- 3.4 7–8 March 2019
- 3.5 6–11 April
- 3.6 11 April: al-Bashir deposed
- 3.7 12 April – 2 June: negotiations with Transitional Military Council
- 3.8 3 June – 11 June: Khartoum massacre and civil disobedience
- 3.9 12 June – 4 July: negotiations and protests
- 3.10 5 July – present: transitional institutions
- 4 Slogans
- 5 Reactions
- 6 Commentary
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Al-Bashir had ruled the country since 1989, when he led a successful coup against the elected, but increasingly unpopular, prime minister of the time, Sadiq al-Mahdi. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.
In January 2018, large protests started on the streets of Khartoum, Sudan's capital, in opposition to the rising prices of the basic goods including bread. The protests grew quickly and found support from different opposition parties. Youth and women's movements also joined the protests.
The Sudanese government devalued the local currency and removed wheat and electricity subsidies. Sudan's economy has struggled since Omar al-Bashir's ascent to power, but became increasingly turbulent following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which, up until then, had represented an important source of foreign currency, because of its oil output. The devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October 2018 led to wildly fluctuating exchange rates and a shortage of cash in circulation. Long queues for basic goods such as petrol, bread, as well as cash from ATMs are a common sight. Sudan has around 70% inflation, second only to Venezuela.
In August 2018, the National Congress party backed Omar Al-Bashir's 2020 presidential run, despite his increasing unpopularity and his previous declaration that he would not run in the upcoming elections. These measures led to rising opposition from within the party calling for respect of the constitution, which currently prevents Al-Bashir from being reelected. Sudanese activists reacted on social media and called for a campaign against his nomination.
Opposition groups and figures
The Sudanese Professionals Association has coordinated the protests. The group is a civil society organization and an umbrella group of trade unions for professionals. The group is composed of doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists, pharmacists, and others. The group, established in 2012, operated mostly clandestinely during al-Bashir's regime in order to avoid arrest. The core of the group consists of urban middle-class professionals.
Other Sudanese opposition groups include the Sudan Call (Nidaa Sudan in Arabic), a movement founded by many political figures including, Farouk Abu Issa and Dr. Amin Mekki Medani, (and included the Umma Party, Sudanese Congress Party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North) and the National Consensus Forces (consisting of the Sudanese Communist Party and the Sudanese Ba'ath Party). The Sudanese opposition to al-Bashir was initially fractured, but in January 2019 unified in a coalition called the Alliance for Freedom and Change. The Freedom and Change Charter signed by the alliance participants called for the removal of the government and a transition to democracy under a civilian government.
The 2018–2019 wave of protests began on 19 December 2018 in response to the tripling of the price of bread in Atbara, then quickly spread to Port Sudan, Dongola and the capital Khartoum. Protestors set fire to the national party headquarters in Atbara and Dongola. Authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, causing dozens of deaths and injuries. The former prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, returned to the country on the same day.
Access to social media and instant messaging was cut on 21 December by the country's major service providers, with technical evidence collected by the NetBlocks internet observatory and Sudanese volunteers indicating the installation of "an extensive Internet censorship regime". Curfews were issued across Sudan, with schools closed throughout the country. Darfuri students in Sennar and Khartoum were arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and tortured into confessing membership in the Sudan Liberation Movement in an effort to create a narrative that the protests were race-based. These forced confessions were broadcast on both Sudanese state television and Facebook on 29 December.
By 7 January 2019 over 800 anti-government protesters were arrested and 19 people, including security officials, were killed during the protests.
Media coverage of the protests was strictly controlled by security forces. Al Tayyar began printing blank pages to show the amount of government-censored copy. Other news outlets have seen their entire print run confiscated by the government. The security service (NISS) raided Al Jarida's offices again, which has led the latter to stop producing its print version. According to The Listening Post, foreign Arabic-language videographers have been particularly targeted by the government.
A "senior military source" told Middle East Eye that Salah Gosh, head of Sudanese intelligence, had the support of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to replace al-Bashir as president, citing his private talks with Yossi Cohen at the Munich Security Conference as evidence (15–17 February).
On 22 February, Bashir declared a yearlong state of national emergency, the first in twenty years. Bashir also announced the dissolution of the central governments and the regional governments, and replaced regional governors with military generals. The next day he appointed his chosen successor, Mohamed Tahir Ayala, as Prime Minister and former intelligence chief and current Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf as first vice president. His intelligence chief also announced that he would not seek re-election in 2020 and would resign from the head of the National Congress Party. Ahmed Haroun, also wanted by the ICC for war crimes, replaced Al-Bashir as leader of the National Congress party. Officers from the military and intelligence services were put in charge of provincial governments after the dissolution.
Security forces raided universities in Khartoum and Ombdurman, reportedly beating students with sticks in Khartoum on 24 February. On the same day, al-Bashir issued decrees banning unauthorized demonstrations, prohibiting the illegal trade of fuel and wheat under threat of 10-year prison sentences; banning the "unauthorized circulation of information, photos or documents that belong to the president's family"; and introducing capital controls on the trade of gold and foreign currency.
7–8 March 2019
On 7 March, protests were organized to honor women for their leading role in the uprising. "You women, be strong" and "This revolution is a women's revolution" were slogans chanted at several protests.
On 8 March, Omar al-Bashir ordered that all the women who had been arrested for participating in anti-government demonstrations be freed. Protestors named a Khartoum neighborhood park (in Burri) after one such woman, who had been sentenced to 20 lashes and one month in prison by an emergency court, then freed on appeal. The sentence of flogging, first introduced during British colonization in 1925, aims at discouraging Sudanese women from political activism.
According to the Democratic Lawyers Alliance, at least 870 people had been tried in the newly-established emergency courts by mid-March.
On 6 April, days after Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to step down to appease Algerian protesters, the Sudanese Professionals Association called for a march to the headquarters of the armed forces. Hundreds of thousands of people answered the call. According to one protester, divisions appeared between the security forces, who "tried to attack the demonstrators coming from the north", and the military, who "took the demonstrators' side and fired back." On Sunday, Social media were blocked and the power was cut all over Sudan as the protestor's began a sit-in at the military headquarters in Khartoum which continued throughout the week. On Monday morning (8 April), the army and the rapid reaction force of the secret services were facing off at the armed forces headquarters in Khartoum. According to the interior minister, there were six deaths, 57 injuries, and 2,500 arrests in Khartoum over the weekend. Police were under orders not to intervene.
11 April: al-Bashir deposed
On 11 April, al-Bashir was ousted from presidency and placed under house arrest by the military. The European Union and the United States called for a UN Security Council meeting. State media reported that all political prisoners, including anti-Bashir protest leaders, were being released from jail. A curfew was also put in place between 10 pm and 4 am. Despite the imposed curfew, protesters remained on the streets.
12 April – 2 June: negotiations with Transitional Military Council
On the evening of 12 April, the head of the Transitional Military Council in Sudan, Awad Ibn Auf, announced his resignation following intense protests. Ibn Auf said that he had chosen Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the army's inspector-general, to succeed him. The protesters were "jubilant" upon hearing this announcement as he was one of the generals who reached out to the protestors during the sit-in. Burhan is also "not known to be implicated in war crimes or wanted by international courts."
On 13 April, talks between the military and the protestors officially started. This came following announcements that the curfew imposed by Auf was lifted, that an order was issued to complete the release of those who were jailed under emergency laws issued by al-Bashir. It was also announced that intelligence and security chief Salah Gosh had resigned. Amnesty International asked the military coalition to investigate his role in protesters' deaths.
On 14 April it was announced that council had agreed to have the protestors nominate a civilian Prime Minister and have civilians run every Government ministry outside the Defense and Interior Ministries. The same day, military council spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi Shinto announced that Auf had been removed as Defense Minister and that Lt. General Abu Bakr Mustafa had been named to succeed Gosh as chief of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
On 15 April, military council spokesman Shams al-Din Kabbashi announced "The former ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will not participate in any transitional government," despite not being barred from future elections. The same day, prominent activist Mohammed Naji al-Asam announced that trust was also growing between the military and the protestors following more talks and the release of more political prisoners, despite a poorly organized attempt by the army to disperse the sit-in. It was also announced that the military council was undergoing restructuring, which began with the appointments of Colonel General Hashem Abdel Muttalib Ahmed Babakr as army chief of staff and Colonel General Mohamed Othman al-Hussein as deputy chief of staff.
On 16 April, the military council announced that Burhan once again cooperated with the demands of the protestors and sacked the nation's three top prosecutors, including chief prosecutor Omar Ahmed Mohamed Abdelsalam, public prosecutor Amer Ibrahim Majid, and deputy public prosecutor Hesham Othman Ibrahim Saleh. The same day, two sources with direct knowledge told CNN that Bashir, his former interior minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and Ahmed Haroun, the former head of the ruling party, will be charged with corruption and the death of protesters.
On 17 April, al-Bashir was transferred from house arrest in the Presidential Palace to solitary confinement at the maximum-security Kobar prison in Khartoum, a prison notorious for holding political prisoners during al-Bashir's time in power. Military council spokesman Shams Eldin Kabashi said that two of al-Bashir's brothers, Abdullah and Alabas, had also been arrested.
On 18 April, crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands demonstrated to demand civilian rule. The demonstration was the largest since al-Bashir was deposed. Protest leaders also announced plans to name their own transitional council in two days' time if the military junta refused to step aside.
On 20 April, an anonymous judicial source said that officials had found suitcases full of Euros, US dollars, and Sudanese Pounds in al-Bashir's home (totalling around $6.7 million). Current Parliament Speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omar and presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie were placed under house arrest; the secretary general of the Islamic movement Al-Zubair Ahmed Hassan and former parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim al-Taher were also among those arrested in relation to these suitcases.
On 21 April, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan called the transitional military council "complementary to the uprising and the revolution" and promised that it was "committed to handing over power to the people." Nevertheless, protest leaders broke off talks with the military authorities the same day—saying that the military junta was not serious about transferring power to civilians and that the junta was composed of remnants of al-Bashir's Islamist regime—and vowed to intensify demonstrations. The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged $3 billion in aid to the military authorities, which protestors called upon the council to reject, with some even suggesting severing diplomatic ties with both historical allies. Meanwhile, as a result of strikes at oil companies in Port Sudan, landlocked South Sudan's oil exports were paralysed.
On Wednesday 24 April, three members of the Transitional Military Council (political committee chair Omar Zain al-Abideen, Lieutenant-General Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh and Lieutenant-General Al-Tayeb Babakr Ali Fadeel) submitted their resignations in response to protestors' demands. On Saturday 27 April, an agreement was reached to form a transitional council made up jointly of civilians and military, though the exact details of the power-sharing arrangement were not yet agreed upon, as both sides wanted to have a majority. The military also announced the resignation of the three military council generals.
On 7 May 2019, 21 former officials who served in al-Bashir's National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in South Darfur were arrested after attempting to flee the country. On May 8, it was revealed that some of the South Darfur officials who arrested were women.
Qatari-based Al Jazeera announced the Sudanese authorities had revoked their right to broadcast from Sudan on 30 May 2019. Two civilian deaths were reported the same day. The Transitional Military Council cracked down on the "Columbia" neighbourhood in North Khartoum where the drug, alcohol and sex trades have become more open during the transition. Rapid Support Forces and police reportedly fired live ammunition, resulting in casualties (1 dead, 10 wounded).
3 June – 11 June: Khartoum massacre and civil disobedience
Tensions continued to rise and on 3 June 2019, 118 people were killed, 70 were raped and hundreds were injured in the Khartoum massacre as a result of Sudanese armed forces storming a camp and opening fire on protesters. Security forces also opened fire on protesters inside medical facilities. Security forces dumped bodies of some of the killed protesters in the river Nile.
The following day, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) called for "complete civil disobedience" to close down streets and bridges and "open political strike" in all workplaces in Sudan, using the techniques of nonviolent resistance against the TMC.
On 8 June, the SPA warned of a wide campaign by the TMC of arresting and disappearing political activists or threatening to kill them. The SPA called for activists to strictly follow the methods of nonviolent resistance in their campaign of civil disobedience and workplace strikes.
A 3-day general strike and nationwide civil disobedience campaign was carried out from 9–11 June. The SPA estimated 60–95% pupils' and teachers' absences from primary and high schools; 67–99% closure of municipal and national bus transport; 84–99% blocking of flights; 98–100% blocking of rail transport; 64–72% bank closures; 86% closure of retail markets; 60–94% closure of electricity, heating, oil and gas stations; 57–100% non-publication of newspaper publishing; 47–90% of medical services were closed, but free emergency medical care was provided; 90–100% of private and state legal services were shut down. NISS and Huawei forcefully shutdown the Internet at the level of 63–100% (levels varying per provider).
12 June – 4 July: negotiations and protests
On 12 June, the TMC agreed to release political prisoners and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) agreed to suspend the general strike, according to Ethiopian mediator Mahmoud Drir. The two sides also agreed "to resume talks soon" about forming a civilian government.
On 12 June, the FFC prepared a list of eight civilian members for a 15-member transitional governmental council, including three women, in addition to Abdalla Hamdok (or Abdullah Hamdouk), who was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa starting in November 2016, as prime minister.
On 13 June, TMC spokesperson Shams El Din Kabbashi stated that "some" security force members had been arrested over the 3 June massacre and that eighteen people, members of two different groups planning coups against the TMC, had also been arrested.
On 29 June, TMC security forces raided the headquarters of the Sudanese Professionals Association, preventing a press conference from taking place.
On 30 June, the thirtieth anniversary of al-Bashir's coup d'état, twenty thousand people protested in Khartoum and elsewhere around Sudan to call for civilian rule and justice for the 3 June massacre. Ten people were killed during the demonstrations, including one shot dead by security forces in Atbara, and according to the Health Ministry, 181 people were injured among which 27 suffered gunshot wounds. Tear gas, live ammunition and stun grenades were used against protestors in Khartoum and in El-Gadarif. Ahmed Rabie of the opposition attributed all the deaths to the TMC, stating, "We hold the TMC responsible because those who were killed were shot under the eyes of the security forces, which either killed them or failed to protect them." The TMC attributed responsibility for the deaths to the protestors. General Gamal Omar of the TMC said that people who fired at security forces, killing two and wounding three, were arrested by the RSF.
On 3 July, direct talks between the TMC and the DFCF resumed after mediation by the African Union and Ethiopia.
5 July – present: transitional institutions
On 5 July, with the help of African Union and Ethiopian mediators, a verbal deal was reached by the TMC and civilian negotiators of the FFC, including Siddig Yousif, on the formation of governmental institutions, under which the presidency of the transitional government would rotate between the military and civilians. The deal agreed to by the TMC and the civilian negotiators included:
- the creation of an 11-member sovereign council with five military members and five civilians to be chosen by the two sides and a civilian to be agreed upon mutually;
- a transition period of 3 years and 3 months, led by a military member for the first 21 months and a civilian for the following 18 months;
- a cabinet of ministers to be appointed by the FFC;
- a legislative council to be formed after the creation of the sovereign council and cabinet;
- the creation of a "transparent and independent investigation" into events following the 2019 Sudanese coup d'état, including the Khartoum massacre;
- a committee of lawyers, including African Union lawyers, to formalise the deal within 48 hours;
- democratic elections to determine leadership following the 39-month transition period.
Tahani Abbas, a cofounder of No to Women's Oppression, stated her worry that women might be excluded from the transition institutions, arguing that women "[bear] the brunt of the violence, [face] sexual harassment and rape" and were active in organising the protests. On 9 July, a 4-member committee, including Yahia al-Hussein, was still drafting the written form of the agreement. The committee expected it to be signed in the presence of regional leaders within 10 days. While waiting for the written agreement to be prepared and signed, the Internet in Sudan continued to be mostly blocked. TMC spokesperson Shams al-Din Kabbashi claimed on 7 July that the Internet ban was necessary to protect the transition deal, since groups opposed to the deal planned to misrepresent it. He promised to restore the Internet within "two or three days". United Nations human rights experts Aristide Nononsi, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule and David Kaey stated that the Internet ban was a violation of international human rights law and not justified under any circumstances.
The agreement was formalised with the signing by the TMC and the FFC of a written document in front of international witnesses on 17 July 2019. A constitutional declaration remained to be prepared to complete the definition of the transition period.
Similar to other protests, the Sudanese protestors have chanted slogans demanding the fall of the current regime. These slogans include "Freedom, peace and justice," "We are all Darfur," and "Just fall – that is all", among others.
Slogans which were widespread since 19 December 2018 included "Freedom, peace, justice" and "Revolution is the people's choice" and video footage showed men and women, many wearing masks, shouting slogans against the government.
Just fall – that is all
The slogan "Just fall – that is all" (تسقط – بس tasquṭ bas) was first used on Twitter and Facebook pages during the protests of 22 December 2018 and has thereafter been widely used.
Freedom, peace and justice
This slogan was the first to be used in downtown Khartoum where demonstrators chanting "freedom, peace and justice" and "revolution is the people's choice" were met with tear gas. The organizers of this particular march were "professionals, including doctors, engineers, and teachers."
We are All Darfur
The slogan "You arrogant racist, we are all Darfur!" was used in Khartoum in response to the targeting of 32 Darfuri students by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents, who alleged they were planning an attack. According to Radio Dabanga, the NISS claimed that they had been trained by the Israeli Mossad to carry out acts of sabotage. The students were arrested at the University of Sennar and were transported to Khartoum, where they subsequently confessed "under duress."
The hashtag #Sudaxit calls for a strengthening of Sudan's African identity. The old blue-yellow-green tricolour independence flag of 1956–1970 has been seen at protests, mural depictions and social media.
- On 28 December 2018, two United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed alarm about reports of government violence (using live ammunition) against protestors and concern about "arbitrary arrests and detentions".
- On 16 April 2019, the African Union announced that Sudan would be removed from its membership unless a civilian government were appointed within two weeks. On 23 April, this position was revised at a meeting in Cairo, during which the Union instead gave the transitional military council three months to organize elections.
- Egypt – Egypt sent its minister of foreign affairs Sameh Shoukry to become the first Arab official to announce its support of the Sudanese government. "Egypt is confident that Sudan will overcome the present situation," Shoukry said, adding that "Egypt is always ready to support Sudan and the ability of Sudanese people as per the government of Sudan's vision and policies."
- Qatar – The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hammad declared his support of Omar al-Bashir, whose first international trip since the uprising began was to visit the Emir. No financial support was announced after this meeting.
- Saudi Arabia – King Salman of Saudi Arabia has sent a diplomatic delegation calling for the stability of Sudan and stating that the security of Sudan is part of the security of the (Saudi) kingdom itself.
- United Arab Emirates – The UAE has announced plans to support the shortages of the Sudanese economy and provided 1.12 million tonnes of fuel and allocated $300 million to finance Sudan's agriculture.
- Saudi Arabia & United Arab Emirates pledged 3 billion in aid on 21 April and the Kuwaiti-based Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development lent $200m to the Sudanese government.
- Norway, United Kingdom, United States – On 10 April, the Troika issued a statement urging the government to heed the protesters calls for political transition: "The Sudanese people are demanding a transition to a political system that is inclusive and has greater legitimacy. The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for political transition. Failing to do so risks causing greater instability. The Sudanese leadership has a grave responsibility to avoid such an outcome."
- Turkey, Russia – offered fuel and wheat, according to Sudan's Oil Minister.
- United Kingdom – On 14 January, British ambassador to Sudan Irfan Siddiq said he urged the Sudanese government to avoid violence with the protesters and to release the political detainees saying "No more use of force, credible investigations into killings, release of political detainees, freedom of media and respect for the sanctity of hospitals and work of medics all essential steps."
- United States – On 23 January, the United States announced its concern over the arrests and detentions, calling for the Sudanese government to release journalists, activists, and peaceful protesters arbitrarily detained during the protests, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino announced "We call on the government to allow for a credible and independent investigation into the deaths and injuries of protesters." On 19 April, the U.S. government called on the Sudanese military to give way to a civilian-led transitional government "that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and the rule of law."
Giorgio Cafiero, founder of Gulf States Analytics, framed the protests and the subsequent coup in Sudan in geopolitical context where regional power, mainly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, were playing a major role in what he called "a counter-revolution." Cafiero added that "if a growing number of Sudanese citizens share a perception of Gulf states pursuing counter-revolutionary agendas in Sudan, more voices across the country could begin blaming such foreign governments for dimming their hopes for achieving democratic change."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2019 Sudanese protests.|
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