Sudan: the fight for democracy goes on

A while ago I wrote about the the independence of South Sudan (2011) and the conflict that’s occurred since. More recently I introduced you to Peter Marsden and his work for Concordis International negotiating peace in areas of conflict and facilitating the reconciliation of communities that have been torn apart in war.

Since the independence of South Sudan, the North seems to have had less airtime on the world stage. Until, that is, December 2018, when people began rising up against Omar al Bashir’s presidency. Al Bashir has been president since 1989. As a brigadier in the Sudanese army, he orchestrated a military coup, overthrowing the then democratically elected prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who had begun peace negotiations with the rebels in the south.

Until his own recent deposition, Al Bashir had been elected three times in elections that have been scrutinised for electoral fraud. In 2009, he was the first sitting president to be indicted by the international criminal court for a campaign of mass killing (possible genocide), rape and pillage against Darfur civilians. The death toll of which has since been estimated as between 200,000 and 400,000, with a displacement of 2.5 million – over a third of Darfur’s population.

All of which explains why, in December 2018, the people of Sudan began to rise up, their refusal to back down turning influential individuals in Al Bashir’s own army against him. Two weeks ago, on 11th April, he was removed from office by the Sudanese Armed Forces. However, the campaign is far from over. Three different military leaders have been put in power since 11th April and subsequently stepped down. Protesters are adamant that the next president be democratically elected, their determination evident at yesterday’s Million-Strong March. Clearly, having suffered for so long, people are prepared to wait for however long it takes to get what they want.

There seems to be a huge amount of hope and courage among the people. The protest is non-violent and something particularly inspiring members is they are being largely led by women. Amid them is 22-year old engineering and architecture student, Alaa Salah, who has become known after a video of her making a speech to protesters went viral. ‘I don’t claim,’ she says, ‘that I am the icon of the revolution. On the contrary, all of the Sudanese people are the icon of the revolution.’ See more in the video below.

Three days ago, African Union leaders gave Sudan’s transitional military council three months to transfer power to civilian rule. According to the New York Times, Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, the spokesman for the military council, said the military will ‘maintain sovereign powers’ until elections are held.

And so the protests go on.

Video by BBC news.

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