What goes around comes around. In 1989 general Omar al Bashir took power in a military coup. On April 11, 2019, the Sudanese Army led by ten officers calling themselves the Military Transitional Council (MTC) launched a coup that toppled Bashir’s government. The coup ended his three decades in power. Bashir remains in detention (under arrest). Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan leads the MTC. Burhan is a career professional soldier.
Relentless mass, nation-wide protests by Sudanese citizens preceded the coup. The protests began December 19, 2018. Initially, public anger at government reductions in food and fuel subsidies sparked the demonstrations, but Sudan’s weak economy and Bashir’s misrule (especially corruption) are the real sources. The economy has generally declined due to the loss of revenue from South Sudan’s oil fields (courtesy South Sudan’s independence).
Over time a protest and activist coalition formed, the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC). The AFC now serves as a coordinating organization. Bashir is gone but mass protests continue. There are many reasons for the protests, but military rule is the big one. The MTC says military rule will last two years. Demonstrators want a civilian administration and they want it immediately. The MTC insists it is committed to a future civilian government and has made effort to minimize confrontations between police and demonstrators.
The MTC and the AFC have agreed to form a joint civilian-military committee to discuss how to transition to civilian rule. However, they have very different ideas about the joint committee. The military wants a ten member council with seven military representatives. The AFC says no, the committee must have 15 members and eight of them must be civilians.
This is a revolutionary moment in Sudan. A constitutional, democratic government could emerge. But with Bashir gone as a unifying villain, violent chaos and political fracturing remains a possibility. A significant number of citizens in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states would rather be part of South Sudan. At least two Darfuri rebel groups favor secession. A civil war within the Sudanese armed forces is a stretch – meaning the regular military forces. Still, an ambitious general could rebel and if his troops follow him shots will be fired. National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) personnel and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are another matter. These organizations were (are?) loyal to Bashir. Some political Islamist groups remain openly loyal to Bashir. Islamist militants supported Bashir’s 1989 coup. Conceivably Sudan’s regular army could end up confronting NISS personnel and RSF units. Time will tell. (Austin Bay)
May 1, 2019: In Sudan, protestors in the capital refused to remove their barricades, even though the MTC is demanding they do so because barricades are making it difficult for economic activity to resume. The protestors, led by the SPA (Sudanese Professionals Association) insist that the highest priority is civilian rule and that the military must give up their control of the transition government. The SPA protestors have been joined by pro-rebel groups from Darfur, where the military has done a lot of damage in the last two decades.
The AU (African Union) agreed that the military control had to go and changed their demand for the military to give up power within three months to two months. Last month leaders and representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia, Chad, Djibouti, Somalia, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda urged the AU to make the appeal to Sudan’s military leaders. Egypt and Ethiopia are Sudan’s most powerful neighbors and they are concerned about Sudan’s long term stability. The two year transition Sudan’s military has proposed has failed to satisfy Sudanese pro-democracy groups and opposition political parties.
April 29, 2019: Today was a complicated day in the Sudan capital (Khartoum). Political Islamists who supported Bashir called off a rally. They claim they fear attack by pro-democracy protestors. A large number of police officers participated in a 24-hour labor strike. The strikers are demanding the ruling military council investigate and remove corrupt policemen in Khartoum and in the national police force. Meanwhile, the MTC continued to talk with leaders of the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
In an attempt to reverse U.S. political and arms sanctions, South Sudan’s government has hired an American public relations and lobbying firm. South Sudan’s senior leaders also oppose international demands for a special court to prosecute war crimes. The proposed court is being called a “hybrid court.” Judges from other African nations would serve alongside South Sudanese judges.
April 28, 2019: The SPA, one of the most prominent and influential activist groups in the nation-wide protest movement, accused the ruling military council of ordering security personnel to break up a sit-in demonstration in Khartoum. The demonstrators were demanding that the council cede power to civilian leaders. The accusation comes four days after a senior council member promised that the military would not use force against what he called “anti-Bashir” demonstrators. Apparently, the promise does not apply to anti-military council demonstrators. (Austin Bay)
April 27, 2019: Sudan’s MTC agreed to form a joint civilian-military committee with members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change. The committee’s structure and its power has yet to be determined.
April 26, 2019: SPLM-IO, South Sudan’s main opposition party and the leading rebel organization, announced that if the government refuses to accept the SPLM-IO’s request for a delay in forming the new transitional government, the SPLM-IO will withdraw from the peace agreement. The SPLM-IO wants a six month delay because several essential security milestones and political arrangements the September 2018 peace agreement specified have not been implemented. The transitional government is supposed to form on May 12. South Sudanese political and tribal leaders continue to disagree on the transitional government’s structure. The latest name for the proposed structure is the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (with the ungainly acronym RTGoNU). Due to form on 12 May, the group could withdraw from the peace deal. The SPLM-IO, however, no longer speaks with one voice. Some former rebels who still nominally belong to the SPLM-IO have said they want to go form the government on May 12.
April 24, 2019: A senior Sudanese Army general serving on the MTC declared that the military will not use force to stop the anti-Bashir demonstrations that continue to in Sudan’s major cities. The demonstrations, however, are not simply anti-Bashir. Activist groups remain in the streets because they are demanding that the military immediately cede power to civilians. Sudanese opposition political leaders and some religious leaders support the demonstrations and are urging the military council to quickly step down and hold free elections.
April 23, 2019: The AU asked the MTC to transfer power to civilians within three months and establish a “constitutional regime” in Sudan.
April 22, 2019: Pro-reform groups in Sudan are demanding the MTC address the cost of food and fuel. Consumer prices in Sudan rose 70 percent in 2018.
April 20, 2019: Sudanese security forces arrested several senior members of the NCP (National Congress Party). The NCP was Bashir’s party and was in power until the military coup of April 11. NCP head Ahmed Haroun and Bashir's former first deputy, Ali Osman Taha, were among the officials arrested.
April 17, 2019: The military has said it will not revive the night time curfew. The 10 pm curfew briefly implemented on April 11 was very unpopular with Sudanese citizens and remains a political issue with demonstrators.
In South Sudan, the president (Salva Kiir) has offered to mediate Sudan’s political transition. That’s ironic. Seven months ago Bashir made a similar mediation offer to South Sudan.
Security in Sudan’s western Darfur region has deteriorated since the military coup toppled Bashir. UN peacekeepers reported that attacks have occurred on government installations. Peacekeepers believe some of the attacks are aimed at Sudanese security personnel who “collaborated” with Bashir’s genocidal policies in Darfur. There have also been several violent incidents in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in Darfur.
The government of Uganda said that it would consider giving former Sudanese president Bashir asylum if he asked for it. Uganda no longer recognizes the International Criminal Court (ICC). In 2009 the ICC indicted Bashir on several charges, including war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region.
April 16, 2019: The United States said that since Omar al Bashir is no longer in power, the U.S. is considering removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terror. Sudan has been on the State Sponsor of Terrorism (STT) list since 1993. The decision has not been made, but if the Americans see a “fundamental change” in Sudanese policies and leadership, Sudan will be dropped from the list. Ten military officers now serve on the MTC and at the moment none of them are targets of UN or U.S. individual sanctions. On April 12 former Sudanese Defense Minister general Awad Ibn Auf, the April 11 coup leader, resigned from the MTC. Auf has been on the American individual political and financial sanctions list since 2007. The presence of lieutenant general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as the deputy head of the MTC could prove troublesome. Dagalo has ties to political Islamists who favor strict Islamic law. He also commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The militia has a terrible reputation for lawlessness. The RSF grew out of the Janjaweed militias that committed numerous war crimes during the height of the Darfur war. (Austin Bay)
April 14, 2019: In Sudan, demonstrators in the capital have vowed to continue their street protests until the MTC cedes power to civilian rule. The influential Sudan Professionals Association (SPA) wants the protests to continue.
April 13, 2019: Lieutenant general Abdel Fattah al Burhan is now officially the head of the MTC and the 10 pm night-time curfew imposed on April 11 is no more. The curfew proved to be overwhelmingly unpopular. Lieutenant general Burhan personally made the announcement that the curfew is kaput. He also ordered the release of protesters jailed under the emergency laws Bashir imposed in February. Burhan said the MTC will be in power two years then cede power to civilian rule.
The senior commander of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salih Ghosh, has resigned. Ghosh is a Bashir loyalist to the core. He led the NISS crackdown on Sudanese demonstrators during the four months of protests. He authorized some of the brutal tactics that killed several score protestors and injured hundreds.
April 12, 2019: Coup leader and former Sudanese Defense Minister general Awad Ibn Auf has resigned as head of the MTC and quit the MTC entirely. Auf has several political liabilities. Despite leading the coup, he is regarded as a Bashir friend and ally. He also faces U.S. individual sanctions. Meanwhile, security forces (particularly military units) are preparing for more protests.
April 11, 2019: The demonstrations that began December 19, 2018, have had a profound effect. The Sudanese armed forces have removed president Bashir from power. He is now under arrest in the capital. Military leaders have suspended the constitution and “dissolved” Bashir’s government and Sudan’s parliament. Defense Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf announced that the army will hold power for two years. A national curfew of 10 pm will be enforced by the military and other security agencies. Auf is a longtime political ally of Bashir. Opposition politicians immediately criticized him and promised to resist his leadership. Demonstrators throughout the country promised they would disregard the 10 pm curfew.
April 8, 2019: In Sudan, the CCSD (Central Committee of Sudan Doctors), a major organizing force in the anti-Bashir protests, claimed that some Sudanese policemen and soldiers have begun protecting demonstrators. In the capital, a soldier was killed trying to protect demonstrators from security agents firing live ammunition and tear gas at a crowd. Other major demonstrations took place in Omdurman.