A very serious humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Sudan, right now. But, you could be forgiven if you didn’t know what was happening even by now because the news coverage has been shockingly lacking.
Sudan has implemented a country-wide shutdown of the internet to stop the spread of information. Sadly, it has worked and I found myself discovering this horrendous news via Instagram. It is therefore imperative to use the power of social media to spread this news to bridge the gap where national news has been hindered.
So what has happened? It started with peaceful pro-democracy protesters staging a sit in outside army headquarters in Khartoum where the ruling military party ‘The Transitional Military Council’ (TMC) currently sit. TMC took charge following the overthrowing of Omar al-Bashir when he was ousted and arrested after 30 years of rule. Bashir has not been seen since April, but the public prosecutors office has commented that his charges relate to “suspected illicit wealth and emergency orders”.
“His (Bashir’s) regime was extremely racist to anyone who wasn’t ethnically Arab, and Sudan has 160 different linguistic groups alone, we’re a very diverse country – both Arab but also African.” Minorities were persecuted and Sudanese people lived under censorship. – BBC News
What seems to be largely overlooked in light of this ‘new’ humanitarian crisis is that these protests are not new. For months now the stability in Sudan has been spiralling in what some have labelled as the ‘Sudan Arab Spring’. Protestors began calling for Bashir, who came to power off the back of a military coup, to stand down before Christmas. The nation was first rocked in 2011 when Southern Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Consequently, Sudan lost its supply of oil, and the economy spiralled. This was worsened when the US placed sanctions on Sudan after accusations they were sponsoring terrorism, and worsened still when the International Criminal Court found Bashir’s regime guilty of genocide in Darfur. The cumulative effect of these events resulted in basic commodities shooting up in price causing severe angst amongst residents. The Sudanese people began protests and ‘The Revolution’.
60% of Sudan’s population is under 30 and the protests were led by a new generation of ‘Sudan’s young hope’ and women who dared to speak out about the regime. Their cause, which was met with violent opposition, quickly gained momentum and protests spread nation wide until eventually the military (TMC) took over and stepped into power.
“Sudanese government forces, including the RSF and allied militias, have continued to commit war crimes and other serious human rights violations in Darfur”. – Amnesty International
The TMC assert that they need to be in control to maintain order and stability in Sudan. Spokesperson for the TMC claims that the military are the “soul guarantor for peace and stability in the transitional phase”. However, new protesters staging a sit in were demanding that the military hand over power to civilians. Talks between the council and opposition parties known as the ‘Alliance of Freedom’ and ‘Change Forces’, had been ongoing since April. This abruptly ended when the military resorted to unnecessary force to interrupt the sit in.
“In Darfur, as in Khartoum, we’ve witnessed the Rapid Support Forces’ despicable brutality against Sudanese civilians – the only difference being, in Darfur they have committed atrocities with impunity for years,” Amnesty’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo
On the 3rd June 2019, the Sudanese police and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began to fire at the un-armed protestors in Khartoum. The RSF has grown out of Janjaweed militia, the men responsible for ongoing atrocities which amounted to Bashir’s indictment of genocide in Darfur. Eye witnesses and the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) say that 60 individuals were killed at the scene in Khartoum and 40 more bodies have been recovered from The Nile. Reports put the number of injured civilians at 300 and rising. Since violence broke out innocent people are being murdered in the streets, homes are being burnt to the ground, people are being forced to drink sewage water, and women are being raped. Further revolutionary protestors have set up camps elsewhere in the city, all of which have been torn down and shot at by the military. Human rights are being abused left right and centre. The scenes in Sudan are horrific, and yet an internet and communication shutdown has successfully prevented the rest of the world from finding out about the horrors.
The TMC has since admitted their actions, confirming that they ordered the military to disperse the sit in. However, they assert that they regret mistakes were made in the proceeding days. With the death toll rising into the hundreds it seems a little too late for ‘regrets’. Yet, military spokesmen allege that the coup was the fault of the civilians because despite agreements the council and opposition parties had come to, protestors continued to scream ‘civilians, civilians’. Regardless of agreements which may or may not have been made behind closed doors, the actions of the peaceful protestors did not warrant an unexpected fatal ambush at 5am with soldiers far outnumbering civilians. No event will ever warrant that reaction. It was wholly disproportionate on so many levels.
International pressure on the Sudanese Military is necessary going forward to progress peaceful negotiations regarding the political and economical state of Sudan. From what little information we can glean in the news, the situation has begun to ‘settle’, with less militia present on the streets. However, the aftermath of the bloodshed on the 3rd of June and the following week, will take a long time to clear up.
An official investigation has commenced into the events on the June 3rd. Results are due to be published on Saturday 15th June.
Sudan needs our support. Social media has turned to sharing the Indigo Blue profile picture as a sign of solidarity with the #BlueForSudan. The hashtag began to honour the memory of Mohamed Matter whose favourite colour was blue, after he was brutally murdered on the 3rd June whilst protecting two women from the RSF. It has now become a symbol to show international support for Sudan.
I want to leave you with a harrowing but inspiring quote. #IAmTheSudanRevolution
“The sit-in may be gone, but it’ll always be the place that brought together people who dared to think of a different Sudan, a democratic Sudan. No amount of paint will whitewash that memory.” – Reuters, Hiba Morgan