“The revolution is far from over.”
Sudan is marking its one-year anniversary of a deadly massacre that led to the deaths of hundreds of martyrs (an individual who is killed because of their beliefs), thousands of injuries, and countless rape victims. Sudanese around the world are continuing to demand that justice be served to the perpetrators of the violence.
But who are the perpetrators behind the mass violence? How did a once promising African nation become so infused with turmoil? How far is peace for the people of Sudan?
Bilād al-Sūdān (Land of the Blacks)
Gaining independence in 1956 from the British and Egypt. The once largest country in Africa has had a long, complicated, and honestly puzzling history of transitioning governments. So, bear with me as we attempt to examine Sudan’s past and the historical events that led to its present.
Ismail al-Azhari served as Sudan’s first prime minister post-colonialism, but his time in office didn’t remain long due to a series of dilemmas. Despite being extremely educated, Azhari faced several issues when in power, one of those issues was establishing a stable government. Azhari’s party advocated for a British parliamentary form of government, while the leading opposition party, the National Umma Party (moderate Islamic centrist political party), advocated for a presidential system. The debate wouldn’t be resolved until 1970, which is when Sudan would favor a presidential system
However, forming a government would be the least of Azhari’s troubles as tension would stir in the southern part of Sudan. Azhari’s ignorance and blindness to the south led to him failing to unite all of Sudan’s people. Consequently, decades of civil wars would erupt due to the government’s failed collectiveness, but we’ll get to that later.
Thus, a weak political system and a loss of public trust would lead Azhari to step down in July of 1956, six months after Sudan’s independence. Abdullah al-Khalil of the Umma Party would take over and become Sudan’s second prime minister, but he too wouldn’t stay in power for long. According to the Middle East Journal , antigovernment demonstrations and rumors of Egyptians supported coups would lead Khalil to negotiate with senior army officers on a military takeover.
In November of 1958, General Ibrahim Abbud would take office for six years. Note that Sudan has had three different leaders in power; in the two years, it’s been an independent country. Abbud’s government would ease Sudan’s economic turmoil as the price of cotton would be lowered, and disagreements with Egypt over the Nile rivers (the longest river in the world stretched between Sudan & Egypt) would be solved. Abbud government would also significantly improve foreign relations and was even admired by it, from US President John F. Kennedy.
Yet, Abbud’s treatment of the south would be the reason for his removal in 1964. Just like those that preceded him, Abbud failed to unite the different tribes of Sudan, and to this very day, that remains a conflicting problem. Hence, before we get deeper into the politics of Sudan, we must understand the differences between the Northern region of Sudan and the Southern part.
Africa’s Longest Civil War
Before the 2011 independence referendum in which 99% of South Sudanese voters would vote to secede from, there was decades of civil war between the black Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north.
3.5 Million Deaths & 4 Million Displaced
Estimated figures totaled from various sources *Numbers may be higher
That is the estimated total number of deaths and displacements from all three of Sudan’s civil wars that lasted from the birth of the country to its on and off ceasefire. The first civil war lasted 12 years and started before Sudan declared independency. Many factors contributed to the conflict that left half a million people dead, one of those factors was British colonists. “On August 18, 1955, the Equatoria Corps, which was composed mostly of British Colonial soldiers from southern Sudan, attempted to disperse a crowd of protesters in the town of Torit, Sudan (now Torit, South Sudan). The southern soldiers, however, appeared to be sympathetic to the protesters, prompting the central government in Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) to replace them with troops from the northern region. Outraged, the southern soldiers mutinied, killing 336 northerners, both soldiers and civilians. News of the Torit mutiny spread, and southern soldiers across Sudan revolted” (blackpast.org,). Although, this event might have triggered the conflict between the two regions, the hostility has existed since colonization.
Identity and religion could be the root of Africa’s longest civil war. According to, In Sudan: Ethnicity and National Cohesion by Mohamed Omer Beshir, the 18th-century occupation from the Turkish and Egyptian empires introduced political, religious, and ethnic divisions. The colonial governors would divide Sudan into two different regions to enforce various rulings and teachings. In the Northern part, Arab and Muslim philosophies were put in place while the South prohibited any of those practices. This strategy was put in place due to racist perspectives from the colonists. The North of Sudan was perceived to represent the Middle East, while the South of Sudan was observed to represent the Eastern African colonies. Facial appearances and color complexions reinforced this prejudiced strategy. Much of the northern tribes were of Arab origin while its southern counterparts were of Dinka origin.
Institutionalized racism would continue to exist even after colonial ruling. Sudan’s 7th prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, would again make the same mistake of dismissing the South’s presence like those in power before him. In a speech to the National Assembly in 1987, Sadiq al-Mahdi said, “The dominant feature of our nation is an Islamic one, and its overpowering expression is Arab, and this nation will not have its entity identified and its prestige and pride preserved except under an Islamic revival” (Making and Unmaking Nations: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa). It seems that dismissing the southern tribes and addressing them as second-class citizens would be a trait for all North Sudanese leaders. However, one leader would be the culprit behind one of the most notorious genocides that the world has ever seen and would be the one to hold the Sudanese people’s freedoms hostage for 30 years.
“Charges of genocide and crimes against humanity couldn’t topple him, but a rise in the price of bread eventually spilt the end” (Nesrine Malik). In 1989, Bashir would lead a military coup against Sudan’s Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and proclaim himself as leader of Sudan and leader of any position of power (chief of state, prime minster, chief of the armed forces, and Minister of Defense) until 2019. When Bashir took office, Sudan was in the middle of a 21- year civil between the north and south. As Bashir signed a peace treaty to end it in 2005, he was already starting another war that would be even wickeder and more horrific than the last one. The “Darfur Genocide” would leave millions displaced, abandoned and injured. Bashir would get away with it all, despite the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for his crimes against humanity.
- Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
- Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
- Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups’ physical destruction
Crimes against humanity
- Forcible transfer
- Attacks on civilians in Darfur
- Pillaging towns and villages
Sudan grew economically while Bashir in power; oil was found and extracted to the Chinese, Bashir made billions of dollars in lucrative foreign deals. But the economy didn’t grow for the people of Sudan. The highest rates of inflation were recorded while Bashir was in power, the price of food and living expenses drastically skyrocketed, economic depression threatened the daily lives of those living under Bashir’s regime for three decades.
The Fall of the Dictator
In December of 2018, Sudan’s patience had finally gone out. There was no longer fear of a revolution, Sudanese wanted Bashir out, and they wanted their country back. The economy was quickly collapsing; thus, Bashir imposed severe emergency measures to halt the collapse, leading the price of bread and fuel to become unaffordable to many already living in poverty.
By the start of 2019, protests were spreading quickly and ferociously across the country. Older generations were shocked and inspired by the younger generation ability to take over the streets and continue fighting despite being shot by Bashir’s security forces. Sudanese home and abroad watched in horror as family members and friends were killed in the capital. There only remained one shared belief in everyone watching and fighting…Bashir must fall.
On April 11th, 2019, Bashir would be overthrown. It was as if Bashir would have the same fate as Julius Caesar, his own circle, who has supported him through his years of tyranny, turned their backs on him, and forced him out. Sudan celebrated, they have done the impossible; they have taken down Africa’s infamous dictator.
But the battle was far from over, it was just beginning.
Led by General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, the seven-member Transitional Military Council (TMC) announced to the public that it would be in charge to ensure law and order. That message didn’t sit well with the people of Sudan, they have seen this before and had no patience to be instilled in another military regime.
Thousands of peaceful protesters staged a sit-in on June 3rd of 2019, the day would fall on
Eid al-Fitr. (religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of the fasting of Ramadan) Many hoped for a peaceful evening, just wanting their voices to be heard. Except, the TMC, along with the Hemeti’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), had different plans and met the protesters with bullets. In the past years, the RSF had taken up an imaginary role as Bashir’s “third pole of power,” in other words, power-hungry mercenaries were running Sudan’s military forces.
Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, better known as ‘Hemeti,’ and nicknamed the butcher was born in Sudan, yet had no roots in Sudan since his parents were from Chad; thus, he had no shared affiliation with the people of Sudan. “Hemeti’s RSF forces were a rebranding of the Janjaweed militias which terrorized Darfur” (Africa Report). 9,000 of Hemeti’s force would enter Khartoum on June 3rd .
Petrifying, sickening acts by the mercenary’s forced were committed on June 3rd. Bodies were drowned and dumped in the Nile River that to this day would float to the surface. While hundreds were slaughtered, many were kidnapped and tortured. Dozens of women became property to the men in uniform and were horribly gang-raped. Cemeteries, Mosques and medical sites were some of the locations the rapes took place in.
Eyewitness accounts described the events of June 3rd as a bloodbath intended to silence the public’s freedoms. One of those witnesses, Mohamed Idris, believes that God safeguarded him and his father during the week of June 3rd, as they were inches from being struck by bullets, inches away from being six feet underground. Unfortunately, hundreds weren’t able to escape the violence. The Sudanese government reports that 128 were killed by the RSF, yet many eyewitness accounts believe the actual tally is much higher. “It has to be around 500-600 martyrs, could be even more” (Mohamed Idris).
International diplomatic efforts from the African Union and Ethiopia brought peace to Sudan. Peaceful negotiations resumed between the TMC and the civilian government, which lead to a power-sharing agreement to be signed on August 17th. Sudan celebrated once again, hoping that this time would be different.
Abdalla Hamdok becomes appointed as Sudan’s new prime minister after the revolution. Previously, Hamdok worked as a senior economist for the United Nations and intends to use his experience as an economist to bring back Sudan’s damaged economy. Sudan’s signed agreement also led to a new Sovereign Council that replaces the TMC.
- Power-sharing will last for 39 months
- Elections to be held at the end of that period
- A sovereign council, cabinet and legislative body will be formed
- A general will head the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the remaining 18
- Sovereign council will have 11 members (5 civilian and 5 military nominees plus one agreed by consensus)
- A prime minister, nominated by the pro-democracy movement, will head the cabinet
- The ministers of defense and interior will be chosen by the military
- The other positions will be taken by pro-democracy candidates
- Sovereign council and cabinet members barred from running for election
So, what happens next? A long transitional period is in effect to rebuild the country into a functioning state again. The attempted assassination on Prime Minster Hamdok illustrates that Bashir’s regime is still profoundly infused in the country and that it was take scrutinized crackdown to dismantle any sinister forces to the democracy movement of Sudan and its people.
Sudan may be years away from peace and stability, but a new Sudan is achievable as long as justice is served to those viciously attacked from Sudan’s old governments. The people of South Sudan deserve justice, and this administration must not ignore their voices. The current administration must pay attention to the past and follow a different path to lay a foundation for the future of Sudan, and its forthcoming generations.
To contact Mohamed Eltayeb, (firstname.lastname@example.org) / (Twitter)