The more things change, the more they remain the same. That’s the refrain of continuing protests in Sudan, which have seen the change of power three times in three days. Yet the protesters are adamant; they want an immediate transition to civilian rule.
On Thursday, April 11, the military replaced President Omar al-Bashir, who took over power 30 years ago, in a bloodless coup. Defence Minister General Awad ibn Ouf was named the de facto leader. With protesters continuing their sit-in on Khartoum’s streets, late on Friday, April 12, he announced he was stepping down in a speech broadcast on state television. By Saturday, April 13, it was clear General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the general inspector of the armed forces was the head of the transitional council. It has promised to oversee the transfer to civilian rule within two years, possibly earlier. “I am confident he will steer the ship to safe shores, “General Ibn Ouf said of General Burhan, adding he was stepping aside to “preserve unity” of the armed forces.
The military has made it clear that 75-year-old ex-President al-Bashir will not be extradited to the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands. Although the Army says he could be held accountable in Sudanese courts, SNI learns an agreement has been reached to let him leave for Saudi Arabia. He has an international arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
In the Darfur conflict, rebels among the territory’s ethnic Central African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of discrimination and oppression by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government. The government responded with aerial bombings and arming and using a pro-regime militia—the Janjaweed—that is accused of widespread atrocities. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million driven out of their homes.
The United Nations human rights office has called on Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, which issued the arrest warrant for deposed President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes nearly 15 years ago, Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing. The protesters also rejected General Ibn Ouf’s leadership because he was the head of military intelligence during the Darfur campaign to suppress the insurgency in the 2000s. The United States has imposed sanctions on ex-President Bashir since 2007.
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 a few advisories to Indian citizens in distress residing in Sudan asking them to contact the embassy on the helpline number +249-921917471. It said, “Though no untoward incident has been reported, all are advised to remain cautious and avoid crowded protests and military areas. All Indian travellers are advised to put on hold their visits unless the party to be visited advises otherwise”. Out of about 3500 Indians in Sudan, the settled Indian community in Sudan is now about 1500.
The face of the protests is a 22-year-old engineering and architecture student at the Sudan International University, who is reportedly named Alaa Saleh.
A video of her leading chants in anti-government protests in Khartoum has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. She and the crowd are heard chanting ‘Thawra’ which means revolution or uprising in Arabic.
Viral video on social media
The protesters continue to call for an immediate transfer of power to a civilian government. But, with over 120 per cent annual inflation( among the four highest in the world) the transition not only politically but also economically will be equally challenging.
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