Opposition to the Omar al Bashir government in Sudan is building into a broad, organised movement, reports Explo Nani-Kofi
When Sudan split into two, with the South breaking, some predicted that it wouldn’t take long for an economic crisis to bring down the Sudanese regime. However, it has taken 7 years for a crisis provoked by the price of food to threaten the Omar al Bashir regime. Wedding occasions, New Year gatherings, and burials have all turned into impromptu demonstrations against the Sudan government, demanding that Omar al Bashir should be removed as President. The International Criminal Court indicted Omar al Bashir in 2010 for human rights abuses but this has given him some legitimacy as his party supported his claim that ICC is a discriminatory body that picks on African leaders. However, the present wave of opposition appears uncontrollable.
Apparently spontaneous demonstration broke out in the city of Atbara in River Nile State on 19th December 2018. Demonstrators burned down the offices of the ruling party. The government responded with heavy shooting on the demonstrators. The demonstration was initially a response to rises in food costs and the general economic crisis. The government reaction fuelled a nationwide response now demanding for the removal of the Omar al Bashir regime. Sudan has a long tradition of mass actions bringing down dictatorial regimes such as the movement which weakened its first military regime led by Jaafar Nimeiry.
Omar al Bashir first came to power in 1989 by overthrowing the constitutionally elected government of Sadiq al Mahdi. Since then, he has been elected three times as President. His term of office has seen many uprisings and armed insurrections. In October 2005, his government negotiated an end to the civil war with the Southern Sudanese leading to a referendum and the eventual independence of South Sudan. He was also faced with the civil war in Darfur where the Janjaweed acted as a front for the government in a war with armed groups Sudan Liberation Army and Justice Equality Movement. The ICC indicts him for genocide in the war in Darfur.
Bashir was preceded by an earlier military ruler, Jaafar Nimeiry, who also appeared to be a survivor. Nimeiry was overthrown by a counter coup d’état led by the Sudanese Communist Party but his forces were able to overpower the communist insurgents to return him to power. He ruled from 1969 with a very repressive regime but the mass movement never gave up until he was ousted from power in 1985. The present revolt looks equally determined and could be the beginning of the road to the end of the Omar al Bashir era.
After the government’s security forces brutally attacked the 19th December demonstrations, independent professional unions, including the Sudanese Professionals Association, led a march on the Presidential palace to demand that President Omar al Bashir should step down. Sadiq al Mahdi, leader of the opposition National Umma Party, in supporting the demonstrations has called on the regime to accept a peaceful transfer of power. The Justice Equality Movement has called on armed groups not to intervene and allow the demonstrations to be peaceful so that tyrannical regime doesn’t have any excuses for its repressive response.
In a joint statement of opposition alliances, the National Consensus Forces (NCF) and the Sudan Call have declared support for the demonstrations and called upon all political forces, civil society, and national figures to join the demonstrations. The Sudan Call alliance is made up of the Sudanese Professional Gathering, Republican Party, Centre Forces for Change, Intifada Forces and the Federal Alliance. The NCF comprises Sudanese Communist Party, Ba’ath Party, Nasserist Party and Unionist Movement. A number of leaders of the movement have been detained in connection with the demonstrations by the regime.
On the 1st January, Omar al Bashir set up a fact finding panel to investigate the violence which has engulfed the demonstrations which continue to spread. In 2011, al Bashir managed to weather the Arab spring storm but the uncontrollable mass character poses a great danger to his survival. Whilst the government is resisting calls to step down, it is accusing dissident groups of inciting the military to overthrow the regime. There have been deaths and hundreds of injuries. Amnesty International is reporting the death toll at 37.
Explo Nani-Kofi is Societal Affairs Analyst and Social Justice Practitioner. He was born in Ghana where he started his activist as a grass root organizer for popular democracy. He coordinated the Campaign Against Proxy War in Africa and the IMF-World Bank Wanted For Fraud Campaign. He is a member of Counterfire and Director of the Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, in Peki, Ghana and London, UK.
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