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VoaNews.com: Sudan Faces a Future Without al-Bashir

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Friday, 12 April 2019

Sudanese demonstrators gather as they protest against the army’s announcement that President Omar al-Bashir would be replaced by a military-led transitional council, outside the Defense Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, April 11, 2019.
Sudanese demonstrators gather as they protest against the army’s announcement that President Omar al-Bashir would be replaced by a military-led transitional council, outside the Defense Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, April 11, 2019.

WASHINGTON — Sudan is bracing for a new round of unrest, after its new military rulers said they plan to restore the country to civilian rule, ideally within two years.

At a news conference Friday, General Omar Zein Abedeen also said the military authorities will not extradite ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Protesters in Sudan, who have been demonstrating for four months against the country’s autocratic president, defied a curfew Thursday night imposed after the president’s ouster during the military coup.

A Sudanese woman hands a bottle of water to a soldier during a rally demanding a civilian body leads the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, April 12, 2019.
A Sudanese woman hands a bottle of water to a soldier during a rally demanding a civilian body leads the transition to democracy, outside the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, April 12, 2019.

Demonstrators say they want civilians, not military leaders, at the country’s helm.

Additional protesters are expected to take to the streets Friday, after noon prayers.

Washington has urged Sudan’s military “to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government.”

The European Union called for a “swift” transfer to civilian rule.

Ouster

In a surprise address Thursday on national television, Defense Minister Awad Ibnouf announced that the military had staged a coup, ousting al-Bashir. The minister asked for a return to calm and said the military would close Sudanese borders until further notice and impose a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Sudan’s defense minister, Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, head of the Military Transitional Council, looks on as the military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Kamal Abdul Murof Al-mahi, is sworn in as a deputy head of Military Transitional Council in Sudan, April 11, 2019.
Sudan’s defense minister, Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, head of the Military Transitional Council, looks on as the military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Kamal Abdul Murof Al-mahi, is sworn in as a deputy head of Military Transitional Council in Sudan, April 11, 2019.

But protesters were unsatisfied by the move, with some reportedly chanting, “The first one fell, the second one will, too.”

Reached by phone in London, Sarah Abdeljalil, a protest organizer and spokesperson for the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), told VOA that protesters have no intention of following the curfew or accepting military rule.

“This is just the continuation of the same regime, actually; they’re just changing faces, recycling leaders. But it is the same regime trying to come [up] with a new, different shape, but we will not be fooled,” Abdeljalil said. “So, the uprising will continue.”

Watching the soldiers

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported that at least 13 people were killed Thursday in clashes between protesters and security forces. Videos of ongoing protests in the streets filled social media, with reports Thursday from Khartoum indicating that hundreds defied the curfew and remained outside army headquarters.

In recent days, images of soldiers alongside protesters singing, chanting and playing music have circulated on social media. Images of security forces abandoning their uniforms in protest have also surfaced.

Observers are now closely watching the rank-and-file soldiers to see if they will continue to side with protesters or begin cracking down on the gatherings, at the urging of the new regime.

“These people went very far, as far as insubordination, and called on their colleagues to join them. So, in effect, they committed an act of mutiny,” said Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a former Sudan researcher at Amnesty International. “And if the regime stays as it is, they are likely to get punished. So they have a strong interest in staying on the side of demonstrators and pushing for further change.”

FILE - A Sudanese man hands a bag of bread to a customer at a bakery in the capital, Khartoum, Jan. 5, 2018. Khartoum, and other parts of Sudan, have been hit by shortages of the basic staple.
FILE - A Sudanese man hands a bag of bread to a customer at a bakery in the capital, Khartoum, Jan. 5, 2018. Khartoum, and other parts of Sudan, have been hit by shortages of the basic staple.

Economic woes

Eric Reeves, a Sudan researcher and a senior fellow at Harvard University, told VOA widespread anger over Sudan’s declining economy has accompanied dissatisfaction with single-party rule.

Sudan has lost significant oil revenue in recent years, and its currency has deteriorated in value. Late last year, inflation reached 70%, and the government slashed subsidies for fuel and bread.

Reeves said the change in leadership at the top will not alter the harsh realities on the ground.

“This fools nobody,” Reeves told VOA. “[It] addresses none of the issues, and certainly does nothing to bring about the kind of changes that will rescue the Sudanese economy from its present collapse — and it is collapsing very rapidly.”

Future scenarios

Gallopin believes the Sudanese uprising could follow one of three paths. The government could maintain enough loyalty and military firepower to crush the demonstrations; similar to Tunisia, protests could spur further concessions; or protests could lead to further fracturing and infighting within the regime.

Reeves said that, unlike countries like Libya or Somalia, Sudan has a long history of political parties and political institutions. He's hopeful that this history will help the country avoid the type of bloodshed seen in other parts of the world that experienced sudden power vacuums.

But much will depend on what choices the military makes next.

“I think the feeling was that, by arresting al-Bashir, that they could take the steam out of the uprising — but that’s not the case,” Reeves said. “So we are looking at a period of great uncertainty. I’m very hopeful that the middle ranks of the army will begin to break away from the regime.”

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S. Sudan Frets Over Whether Sudan Coup Could Derail Fragile Peace Deal

FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar are seen after peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan, June 27, 2018.
FILE - South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar are seen after peace talks in Khartoum, Sudan, June 27, 2018.

Thursday's military coup in Sudan sparked anxiety in neighboring South Sudan that the toppling of longtime President Omar al-Bashir could scupper a fragile peace deal that ended South Sudan's five-year civil war.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal last year that calls on them to form a unity government on May 12. But key requirements — including integrating their forces — have not been met.

The deal was guaranteed by Sudan and the ouster of Bashir transfers much more responsibility for the success of the agreement to former archenemies Kiir and Machar, said Alan Boswell, a senior analyst with Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group.

In Sudan, Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced the end of Bashir's rule saying the country would enter a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections.

Both the South Sudanese government and former rebels expressed alarm over the coup.

"Sudan labored so hard to restore peace and stability and because of that we have the current prevailing peace agreement in South Sudan and it is a guarantor," Martin Elia Lomoro, South Sudan’s Cabinet affairs minister, said in a meeting with international cease-fire monitors.

Former rebel representative Stephen Pal Kuol said they were also worried. “The opposition also seconded the position of the government,” he said.

Sudan, a largely Muslim nation, granted the largely Christian south its independence in 2011 after decades of scorched-earth fighting. Two years later, South Sudan plunged into its own intermittent civil war, with some 400,000 people killed and nearly a third of the population uprooted.

In the peace efforts, Machar's former rebels are friendless and penniless, giving Kiir the upper hand.

But Kiir might still be willing to form a unity government with Machar if Kiir thought he could improve relations with foreign powers, consolidate his power and pick off the last remaining rebel group, led by former general Thomas Cirillo, said the International Crisis Group's Boswell.

“Kiir holds the cards. It depends if Kiir wants to concede enough to end the war," Boswell said. "There is no longer much external pressure to keep this peace process moving forward... it could all fall apart or it could put fire under their feet to move forward on their own.”

Despite the conflict and a still festering border dispute, relations between Sudan and South Sudan had warmed in recent months because both countries desperately needed the cash generated by oil from South Sudan flowing through a pipeline and port owned by Sudan.

The Vatican brought together South Sudanese leaders including Kiir and Machar for 24 hours of prayer and preaching on Wednesday, an attempt to heal bitter divisions.

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