Sudan’s remarkable 2019 revolution continues to evolve, with prime minister Abdalla Hamdok displaying political agility. Hamdok is a respected economist who has made reforming Sudan’s government and economic structures a national and personal goal. Hamdok seeks restructuring of Sudan’s debts, to include debt relief as well as rescheduling. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have provided some assistance, but the word is Sudan is still short $60 billion. Hamdok also wants the U.S. to remove Sudan from its State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list. Sudan has been on the list since 1993. To that end Hamdok has ordered the expulsion of Hamas (from Gaza) and Hezbollah (Lebanon) from Sudan and the closure of the offices they maintained. These two groups often used Sudan as a base for smuggling and other support activities. Any individuals or groups on the U.S. terrorism list will be expelled.
On the domestic political front Hamdok has (so far) managed to bridge the evident divisions between the pro-democratic members and military officers serving on the Sovereign Council. The Sovereign Council is a transitional structure with eleven members; five military, five civilian and the eleventh member (sixth civilian member) elected by the Council. In the streets of the capital (Khartoum) and other major Sudanese cities, pro-democracy advocates continue to demonstrate for reform. Occasionally supporters of former dictator Omar al Bashir’s government and angry members of Bashir’s National Congress party gather in the streets and claim they are being mistreated. Quite a change that from December 2019. Some of these protests have attracted relatives of former senior government officials who claim the officials have been illegally detained. The June 3 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators by Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen in the capital remains a rallying point for the various pro-democracy forces. The factions are still allied in the FFC (Forces of the Forces for Freedom and Change). The June massacre is a huge problem for the military faction – as it should be. An independent investigation to determine direct responsibility for the massacre is still underway. Many observers speculate the report when released will put severe political pressure on military members of the Sovereign Council.
Sudan still has several unresolved low-level wars going on. Hamdok has made ending the conflict in western Sudan (Darfur) and the south (the “Two Areas” of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states), along with all of Sudan’s other internal disputes, a top priority. Darfur, however, continues to see sporadic fighting. Essentially the war in Darfur is a stalemate between the government and rebels. It began in 2003 so the last three American presidents have had to endure the frustration of dealing with the Darfur mess.
As for South Sudan, the peace is iffy and the peace process fragile, The September 2018 peace deal, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, has failed to meet important milestones. The so-called Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU, also TGNU) was to have been formed by November 12, 2019. It wasn’t. Now a new deadline has been set in February 2020 that calls for major progress in forming the transitional government. Once again in South Sudan, it’s wait and bleed.
December 14, 2019: It is very big news. Former Sudanese dictator Omar al Bashir has been sentenced in court to serve two years for money laundering and corruption. In prison? Not exactly. Bashir will be confined “in a social reform facility,” whatever that is. Sudanese media point out that in Sudan people over 70 cannot do time in jail and Bashir is 75. Bashir still faces charges of genocide and murder. Some of the murder charges involve the 1989 coup when Bashir seized power. Other murder charges involve the deaths of pro-democracy protestors in 2019. In addition, the ICC (International Criminal Court) has charged him with genocide (in Darfur), war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC has requested that Bashir be sent to Netherlands for trial on those charges. Time will tell us if that happens. The Sudanese military opposes extradition, but civilian members of the Sovereign Council have said they do not oppose it. This first conviction is still a victory for Sudan’s 2019 revolutionaries. (Austin Bay)
December 13, 2019: In South Sudan, the government is spending $40 million in an effort to accelerate the integration of soldiers and SPLM-IO rebel fighters. The $40 million is part of $100 million the government pledged to advance the South Sudan peace process. Meanwhile, the U.S. is threatening to impose visas restrictions and other sanctions on anyone attempting to undermine the peace process.
December 12, 2019: Current estimates are that 5.5 million South Sudanese could face hunger and possible starvation in early 2020. The drought in early 2019 reduced the harvest and October 2019’s severe flooding exacerbated the situation. Estimates are that the floods destroyed 73,000 metric tons of foodstuffs. The UN is seeking more funds to buy and deliver foodstuffs to prevent a famine.
December 10, 2019: Sudanese media and an NGO (non-government organization) are accusing the senior leaders of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia and their family members of corruption. A key figure is the brother of RSF commander lieutenant-general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (aka Hemeti). Dagalo also serves on the Sovereign Council. The NGO alleged the corrupt group uses two front companies that “funnel” millions of dollars of RSF funds into an illicit financial network that has interests throughout Sudan’s economy. The gold industry is a major investment. Media identified the front companies as GSK (an information and security tech firm) and Tradive General Trading. Both are based in the United Arab Emirates.
December 8, 2019: Sudan and the U.S. agreed to exchange ambassadors. Ambassadorial level contact ended 23 years ago. Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok said that Sudan will withdraw all of its soldiers from the war in Yemen. At one time 15,000 Sudanese soldiers served with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The contingent has already been reduced to 5,000. Hamdok said the 5,000 will soon be withdrawn. He added that the Yemen conflict has no military solution.
December 5, 2019: The South Sudan government has formed a special court (tribunal) to try its own National Security Service (NSS) agents who are accused of committing crimes. The crimes include atrocities, theft and false arrest. The current head of the NSS said the new court was created to end the “impunity” from accountability that South Sudanese accuse NSS personnel of possessing. In 2014 the government passed the National Security Service Act which gave NSS agents permission to “arbitrarily arrest, detain and investigate” South Sudanese citizens. The law also permitted the establishment of a special court to try agents for criminal activity.
December 4, 2019: Sudan’s prime minister Abdalla Hamdok is making a major diplomatic effort while on a brief state visit to the United States. Hamdok is seeking debt relief. He also wants the U.S. to remove his country from the state sponsor of terror list. Hamdok argues that Sudan no longer sponsors terrorism. American diplomats and intel experts agree that Sudan no longer sponsors terrorism. However, there are other thorny issues. The U.S. believes the National Intelligence Services of Sudan (NISS) is not completely under the civilian government’s control. NISS is Sudan’s primary counter-terrorism agency. The former head of the National Intelligence Services of Sudan (NISS) faces individual sanctions imposed by the United States. The U.S. also wants Hamdok’s government to complete peace agreements with Sudanese rebel groups and address the issue of compensating the families of victims of terrorist attacks.
December 3, 2019: AU (African Union) and east African diplomats confirmed that a new deadline has been set for forming a transitional government in South Sudan. Both the government and rebels have agreed to the “100 day extension“. When did the clock start? It appears to be February 11 or 12, 2020. By that time 83,000 government soldiers and rebel fighters must be at camps preparing to form a unified national army. The 83,000 figure is regarded as a benchmark milestone in the peace process.
December 2, 2019: In northeast South Sudan (Upper Nile state), the UN is demanding increased protection for aid workers. On December 1 gunman attacked an NGO aid facility in the town of Bunj. The attackers injured the staff and pillaged the facility.
November 29, 2019: Local “resistance committees” in Sudan’s cities and towns are vowing to monitor the new transitional government’s progress. Progress includes improving local infrastructure and municipal services. They also want to see military officers removed from civilian offices.
November 27, 2019: Peace monitors are worried that South Sudan’s National Security Service is recruiting a paramilitary force of 10,000 fighters. The force will be largely manned by ethnic Dinka. President Salva Kiir is Dinka.
November 24, 2019: In Sudan, Ali al Haj the secretary general of the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP, an NCP ally), has been arrested and jailed in Kobar prison. Located in the capital, Kobar is where former dictator Bashir is being held. So far no word on charges al-Haj may face. Bashir’s military dictatorship claimed its laws were based on sharia (Islamic law). In fact, at one time Bashir promised to make Sudanese "100 percent Islamic.” Al Haj has long claimed he was not involved in Bashir’s 1989 coup or his military regime. However, rival political leaders accused Bashir’s government of using Islamic law claim to justify brutal physical punishments (like flogging) to repress its opponents (many of whom were Moslems). The PCP supported harsh sharia-based punishments – and that may be one reason the new government has detained him. (Austin Bay)
November 23, 2019: In Sudan SPLM-N rebels demanded that the Sovereign Council embrace secular rule. Al Bashir’s government claimed its laws were Islamic laws. SPLM-N believes that unless Sudan reforms as a secular government, Christians in Sudan’s southern areas may attempt to secede and join South Sudan. The SPLM-N has been fighting in South Kordofan state since 2011.
November 19, 2019: In northeastern Sudan (Atbara State), residents of the state capital locals are complaining to the Transitional Council that their city still has a military governor. Atbara was a center of resistance to British colonial domination. Several of the early pro-democracy protests against Bashir occurred in Atbara, which is why it claims to be the birthplace of Sudan’s 2019 revolution. Atbara city is at the confluence of the Nile and Atbara Rivers and is a major railroad center. Its citizens want the new government to commit to modernizing Sudan’s decrepit railroad system.
November 16, 2019: South Sudan’s government and the rebel coalition led by the SPLM-IO are accusing each other of balking in their commitment to meet the milestone established by the September 2018 peace agreement. The so-called Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU, also TGNU) was to have been formed by November 12, 2019. It wasn’t. By late 2019 at least 41,500 soldiers from the government army and rebel fighters were to have been organized in camps and preparing to form a unified national army. That milestone has not been met. There is a tentative agreement to extend the deadline 100 days.