Almost 30 years after a June 30, 1989 bloodless coup brought him to power, Sudan’s President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir has been removed in another, though it is being portrayed as him stepping down. The man who rose through the military ranks, assumed the rank of Marshal, was trained in Egypt, Malaysia and Pakistan has been ‘deposed’ by his own army.
The military has taken over and a transitional authority, probably under the Army Chief, is being set up. Sources tell SNI the ex-President is getting an assurance that he will not be handed over to the International Criminal Court. He is the first head of state indicted by the International Criminal Court on accusations of war crimes in Darfur, which he denies.
Since December 19, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages. The Sudanese Pound has fallen to 300 to a dollar from 2 in the last decade.
The face of the protests is 22 year old Alaa Saleh, an engineering and architecture student at the Sudan International University.
A video of Alaa Salah leading chants in anti-government protests in the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on on social media.
Viral video on social media
“I wanted to get on the car and speak to the people, speak against racism and tribalism in all its forms, which affects everyone across all walks of life. I wanted to speak on behalf of the youth. I wanted to come out and say that Sudan is for all,” she posted on social media. She and the crowd are heard chanting ‘Thawra’ which means revolution or uprising in Arabic. The ‘Toub’ that she is seen wearing has become a symbol of the female protesters. She is being called ‘Kandaka’, which means Nubian queen. “The toub has a kind of power and it reminds us of the Kandakas,” Alaa Salah said. Kandakas were queens of the Nubian kingdom of Kush, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Sudan more than 3,000 years ago. Since protests began in December, 38 people have died, according to government officials. Human Rights Watch says the number is higher.’
Protests against the government of ex-President Bashir reached a climax on the symbolic date of 6 April, which is the anniversary of a non-violent uprising that removed the dictator Jaafar Nimeiri in 1985.
Ex-Ambassador to Sudan and current advisor to the Government of South Sudan, Deepak Vohra told SNI: “The situation is a delayed response to the Arab Spring”.
The Indian Embassy in Khartoum has issued an advisory to Indian citizens in distress residing in Sudan asking them to contact the Embassy on the helpline number +249-921917471. Out of about 3500 Indians in Sudan, the settled Indian community in Sudan is now about 1500.
The Indian Embassy had told SNI, “Following developments of this morning, there is festive season in the streets and roads of the capital Khartoum. The public including families are out on the streets celebrating and waving Sudanese flags. Military personnel are standing outside their military establishments exchanging greetings. Things, as of now, seem normal. The main TV and Radio station has been taken over by the army. President is reported to be under house arrest. His close aides including two former 1st Vice Presidents, the current Prime Minister, the head of the ruling party have been arrested.
Omer Bashir fought in the Egyptian Army in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and gave asylum to then Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. He also made peace with southern rebels in 2005 which led to South Sudan becoming the world’s youngest country in 2011 and his country losing three-fourths of its oil resources. Khartoum still gets a royalty of $30 a barrel for transporting oil from landlocked South Sudan which is currently producing 180,000 barrels per day and aims to hit 350,000 bpd in the near future. China is the top investor in the South Sudanese oil sector. Oil income is 98 per cent of the country’s budget but production is under half of what it was before the 2013 civil war. India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd has 25 per cent and 24.12 per cent stakes in two blocks. Nothing is expected to change in both countries for India with the new power structure in Sudan.
“I don’t foresee any major changes,/; Lt Gen. Jasbir Lidder (retd), the UN Secretary General’s Ex-Deputy Special Representative and Ex- UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) told SNI. He added, “We need to see the strains of the people who will be in power”.
“The Sudanese people will not rest if the military takes over. They want a transfer of power to a transitional civil government that will pave the ways for a general election after a four-year interim period,” Akol Miyen Kuol, an analyst of Sudan and South Sudan, ex BBC reporter and author of ‘The Last Train’ told SNI. He added, “So they are likely to continue the protests if the military does not immediately transfer power to a civil body. Also, the Sudanese protesters do not want old elements of Al-Bashir to be a part of the transitional civil government. These protesters will call for guarantees if the military takes over and even if they accept an interim military rule for example, they will not accept any element officers belonging to Al-Bashir regime to be a part of it”.