Uncertain about the future, Sudan continues to revolt for a democratic rule

Sudan has displayed a defiant uprising over the last 6 months

Credit : Indie Journal

- Jayali Wavhal

Sudan has displayed a defiant uprising over the last 6 months and has gained worldwide attention with the help of social media. Hundreds of civilians were killed on June 3 at the Khartoum HQ by the military, and their bodies were dumped ruthlessly in the Nile. While investigation to arrest the mastermind of these attacks are on, it has strained the situation in Sudan. Nevertheless, protests still continue as civilians demand for a democratic government instead of the current military rule.

On Thursday, deputy chief of Sudan’s military council claimed that the main culprit behind Khartoum massacre has been identified, but refused to reveal his identity as it might influence the ongoing investigation.

More than 100 people were raped and killed in the early hours of June 3 by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) aided by Transitional Military Council (TMC) forces and Janjaweed militia. The victims, who were peacefully protesting for a democratic governance in Sudan outside the Military HQ in the capital city of Khartoum, were killed using heavy gunfire and teargas; their bodies were later found floating in the Nile.

It all began in December when bread and fuel prices tripled from $0.02 to $0.06 causing unrest in the poverty-stricken country. A Sudan activist tweeted saying, “People are lined outside bakeries and petrol stations for hours. Following the price hike, we have also been restricted from withdrawing any cash from banks as a solution for shortage of these commodities”.

According to economic reports, inflation in Sudan was at 70% in 2018 and prices of basic commodities had doubled up. Economic analysts had reportedly warned that if the Sudan pound continues to deteriorate against the US dollar and price hike wasn’t controlled, Sudan will face grave consequences.

Gradually, people started a protest against the price hike; however, once the inefficiency of the rulers was highlighted, these protests evolved into a demand for removal of President Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir had ruled Sudan for 30 years and had a low reputation. He was the only active leader of a nation to be wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which accused him of overseeing the forces that killed, raped and terrorized thousands of civilians in the Darfur conflict of 2003.

Since the internet made it easier to propagate against Bashir, telecom providers were asked to abort internet services. After 6 years, Sudan was facing another internet blackout which would last for 68 days. Private and public universities were shut down indefinitely and media was controlled by stopping Al-Jarida from printing newspapers and by closing down Al-Jazeera’s office in Khartoum.

In February, Bashir declared national emergency and dissolved the central and regional governments while appointing Mohammad Tahir Ayala as the Prime Minister. He also appointed former defence minister and his trusted aide, Ahmed Ibn Auf as the vice president. Bashir resigned as the head of the National Congress Party (NCP) and announced that he won’t be contesting the 2020 elections. Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for facilitating the Janjaweed militia with arms and transport during Darfur conflict, was elected as the new leader of NCP.

Appointment of corrupt officials at higher posts and imposition of national emergency intensified the protests. To control the situation, Bashir announced a set of rules which would cost the protestors their lives and/or livelihoods. Khalid Mohammed, a protestor, tweeted, “Anyone participating in the protests is being sentenced to 10 years in jail, universities and homes are being raided in areas prone to protests and security is allowed to confiscate money that is “suspected” to be used illegally”.

Protestors found ways to use internet and update the world about Sudan as erratic internet service was still available on land telephone line. Mohammad Wais, a Sudanese currently in USA, posted the following message on his Instagram story – “My family in Sudan calls me regularly to update about the protests. I will be posting them on my account, please share them and help us. #SudanRevolts”. Soon, the trend picked up on all social media platforms along with #SudanUprising and #BlueForSudan. Users changed their display picture to blue colourrepresenting solidarity for the protests, with blue signifying the favourite colour of Mohamed Mattar, one of the massacre victims.

View this post on Instagram

It’s really hard being an influencer and sharing information that is “off brand” and not worthy of the “feed” but I cannot hold this in anymore. I am at my office crying because I have so many emotions in me and I feel horrible. There’s a massacre happening in my country Sudan’s and a media blackout and internet censorship for four consecutive days. There is no objective media sharing what’s going on expect for @aljazeeraenglish which had their offices shot down. My friend @mattar77 was MURDERED by the Rapid Support Forces. My best friend was in hiding on June 2 and that’s the last time I spoke to him. He was missing for 4 days and when I got in touch with him he said: “I was caught, beaten and abused and humiliated and arrested and had my phone confiscated from me. I am injured currently.” And all I could do this post this. I am sorry to all companies I am running campaigns with but my editorial calendar is currently on pause. I am willing to refund all and everything right away. Please, just send me an email. To my followers/supporters who this is too much for I am also sorry but my regularly scheduled content/reviews is also on pause. If this offends you, I am sorry. But I need to speak out and share this in a time like this. If you want to support me please share this information as widely as possible and don’t be silent. Be an ally because we need your help. And tune into my stories for more information. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS BEEN SILENT. #sudanuprising #sudanese_protest #مجزرة_القيادة_العامة #عيد_شهيد #اعتصام_رويال_كير #اعتصام_القيادة_العامه #السودان @wawa_waffles @sudanuprising.updates #sudanrevolts #sudanuprising #iamsudan #iamsudanrevolution #sudanese #freesudan

A post shared by Shahd 🇸🇩 شهد (@hadyouatsalaam) on

Multiple accounts shared links to raise funds for Sudan civilians- a bank account in the name of University of Khartoum Alumni Association, GoFundMe projects, and Paypal transfers amongst others. Conversely, few accounts exploited the crisis under the name of ‘Sudan Meal Project’. These accounts promised users that for every follow / share, the admins will provide one meal to starving Sudanese children. Such accounts were called out for being unauthentic and making false promises under the pretext of a human tragedy, while wrongly influencing social media users who were barely aware of the Sudan milieu. Reacting to the minimal international response, Twitterati has stated that the world would have probably cared about Sudan if it wasn’t an African Islamist country,  however, they will continue to revolt.

View this post on Instagram

IMPORTANT: While the crisis in Sudan has been brought to light by media over their platforms and news channels for over a week now, there is one specific image that has been making rounds on social media for the past 2 days at a very large scale. . But what is this post? An account named @sudanmealproject has posted an image stating that for every share their image receives, they would follow it by providing a meal to the starving children in Sudan. I was going to share the post but naturally I wanted to see the authenticity of it first. The account is not linked to any human welfare organization, there is no website or link provided to show their grounding and the only way of communication is through an email address made on gmail. My doubts did not allow me to share it, but what I did notice is that almost everyone on my instagram did. . Why? I had been sharing Instagram stories regarding Sudan from authentic sources for a couple of days now but not a single person took a step forward to repost the material on their platform. However they did with this specific post because sadly this is how the system works now. Social media has made us into sheeps, we just follow “trends”. Once this post had enough backing and a large amount of people circulating it, most of the people who shared it did not bother even checking the account. They just simply reposted it because that is what the masses are doing, so must be right. Right? No! . While I am not a 100% sure as per yet that the account is just a scam, but it seems likely that it is until they prove it themselves. I would be glad if proved wrong. It is a shame that thousands of people who shared their material had the intention to feed poor children in Sudan, but it will not materialize. This is emotional blackmail. And it worked. . Now while most of those who have realized this must be focusing on the HUGE following that the account has gathered, there is much more to it. It has falsely inspired a number of similar accounts into existence over just 2 days, all with one motive and that is to gain following. Continued in comment....

A post shared by Arslan Farrukh (@arslanfarrukh) on

Speaking about women participating in large numbers, Asma Ahmed, another Twitter user stated, “We have had to ask for permission from our male guardians to work or travel. We have been harassed for wearing pants or not covering our heads. But no more, we aren’t slaves”. Muzan Abdul Samiaa, another woman leading one of the protests groups, was sentenced to 20 lashes and 1 month of jail but was freed on 8th March, Women’s Day as a positive gesture on Bashir’s end. People named a park after her, but continued with the protests with even more vigour.

In April, Association of Sudanese Professionals (SPA) urged the public to join a protest march towards the Military HQ in Khartoum, and thousands of people showed up. This led to a conflict between the government’s security forces and the military, which was fighting on behalf of the SPA; the military won eventually and Bashir was ousted. Former defence minister Ahmed Ibn Auf, Bashir’s trusted aide, announced that Bashir was being held in a safe location and he will be replacing Bashir. Though Ahmed laid out terms like release of political prisoners, suspension of constitution and a 2-year transition period for the government steered by military council, SPA was unhappy. They revolted with slogans like “A thief cannot replace a thief” and expressed dissent.

Ibn Auf eventually resigned and was replaced by Abdul Fattah al-Burhan who enjoyed the support of the people. He lifted the 10 PM curfew, released people who were jailed during protests and reached out to protestors to find middle ground.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) headed by Burhan agreed that protestors should nominate a civilian Prime Minister who will be in charge of all offices except the military and Interior Ministries. It was also announced that Ahmed Haroun was removed as head of NCP and it won’t be participating in any transitional government.

Amidst the talks between TMC and protestors, Bashir was transferred from the Presidential Palace house arrest to solitary confinement in Kobar prison, which is famous for housing criminals sentenced by Bashir himself. Suitcases filled with Euros, dollars and Sudanese pounds were also found in Bashir’s home which ensued the arrest of multiple corrupt officials; this aggravated the protests.

For two months, TMC engaged the SPA in dialogue on how to shift to a transitional government - whether the transitional government should be civilian-led or military-led. Multiple attempts were made to disperse protesters and clear the sit-in in front of the Military HQ. On 30th May, SPA expressed concern that TMC was intending a violent approach to end the protests as two citizens including pregnant lady were shot dead by TMC forces. The SPA also cautioned that military trucks of RSS, NISS and even white Janjaweed vans were gathering around the area of the sit-in.

On June 3rd around 6:00 AM, these forces opened heavy gunfire and released teargas to kill the citizens, whilst effectively blocking any visible exits. “Men and women were being brutally raped. Janjaweed trucks were running over people, those left alive were arrested and harassed physically, homes were raided, bodies were thrown in the Nile and drainage system was flooded with corpses”, said an Al-Jazeera report. Instagram influencer Shahd posted about the death of her friend and capture of another friend by the RSF.  “When I got in touch with my best friend, he said: I was caught, beaten, abused, harassed, humiliated and arrested, and had my phone confiscated. I am injured currently”, Shahd said on her post. She further said that forces were tormenting people, urinating on them, making them drink sewage water and even stopped Muslims from going to Eid prayer.

It was also reported that RSF attacked the wounded in hospitals and ordered the doctors to not treat anyone.Medical volunteers said that dozens of bodies were pulled from the Nile and they had been weighed down with rocks in an attempt to hide the true death toll.

While the United Nations Security General Antonio Guterres, along with countries like Norway, USA, UK, France and Germany have condemned the military attacks on civilians, African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership pending the transfer to civilian rule. Protests were carried out in London, Colorado, and France amongst other nations, and a petition to recognise RSF as a terrorist organisation has been filed with the White House government which has gained almost 1 lakh signatures. Algerian public, inspired by Sudan revolution, has revolted against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika asking him to resign, as he has not addressed the nation directly for several years after suffering a stroke in 2013.

Bashir and 41 other officials are currently being investigated for their role in the Khartoum massacre, while ICC prosecutor has demanded that Bashir be handed over to face trial for his role in Darfur conflict. However, future of Sudan still seems unsure as protests continue. SPA, through the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) opposition alliance, has refused to negotiate with the TMC. Protestors have resorted to civil disobedience in an attempt to shun the military rule whilst also demanding complete removal of the TMC.

Jayali is an intern with Indie Journal.