Op-Ed: Sudan’s military takes control of the country

PUBLISHED: Fri, 12 Apr 2019 17:52:22 GMT

By Pieter Scribante, Economist and Political Analyst at NKC African Economics

Government sources are reporting that President Omar Al Bashir has stepped down as president of Sudan, according to Reuters.

The military has taken control of the country and is arresting government officials – including former cabinet ministers and the leader of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Ahmed Harun.

The current whereabouts of Mr Bashir and Prime Minister Motazz Moussa are unknown, but there are reports that they are in transition talks with the military.

The First Vice President and Defence Minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, an old ally of Mr Bashir, has sided with the military and has been selected to head a transitional government.

The military was seen moving through the streets of Khartoum and raiding the headquarters of the Islamic Movement which is headed by Bashir. Radio and television stations were placed on alert this morning, and at 14:00 Mr Ibn Auf addressed the nation with the highly anticipated “important announcement”.

The defence minister stated that a two-year transition period has begun, with the military leading the country and relieving the previous regime of their power. He also issued a new state of emergency and suspended the constitution, with more news expected as the situation develops.

The military coup d’état follows nearly four months of continuous anti-government demonstrations which started on December 18. These protests were initially sparked by deteriorating economic conditions such as rapid inflation, fuel shortages and a lack of liquidity.

On Saturday, April 6, a coalition of opposition parties headed by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), the main protest organisers, organised the biggest mass protest yet seen with an estimated 500,000 people.

This marked the anniversary of the end of Sudan’s 1985 national uprising, which led to the overthrow of President Ja’afar Nimeiri, in favour of a democratically led government.

Clashes on Saturday between the protesters and the security forces ensued, with the security forces – meaning police and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) – using tear gas and live ammunition against the demonstrators. This was a change in approach after uncommon restraint shown since protests began late last year.

Government sources estimate that 21 people have been killed, including five soldiers.

The biggest twist in events happened when soldiers intervened to protect the protesters against the security forces (on two separate occasions) with some of them being killed. The protesters focused their attention of the army and started protesting in front of their headquarters, calling for the military to rise against the president and support their cause as they did in 1985.

The role of the army has caused may to compare events in Sudan with those in Algeria where a protest movement also led to the toppling of a regime.

Below we show data comparing protest escalation in the run-up to government transitions in North African states in recent years. Compared to the ‘Arab Spring’ events of 2011, which escalated very quickly as in Algeria this year, the Sudan revolt has been a sustained campaign of nearly four months and is more like events in Egypt in 2013.

Thursday’s events mark the end of Mr Bashir’s 30-year rule which was marred by conflict, accusations of war crimes, corruption, and the underdevelopment of Sudan. It is unknown what is going to happen to him as he is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur in 2003.

While they will be happy to see the back of the dictator, protesters have emphasised that they want a civilian transitional government which contrasts with the announcement by the military. They have said that they are willing to go back to the streets if the army takes over with Mr Ibn Auf ruling the country as he was the minister in charge of the protest crackdowns since the national emergency declaration on February 22.

The recent announcement fell short of the protester’s demands and is likely to inspire further demonstrations across the country.

Data:Powell, Jonathan & Clayton Thyne. 2011. Global Instances of Coups from 1950-Present. Journal of Peace Research 48(2):249-259 and The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (Acled).

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