Even with the international community calling for the Sudan government to refrain from hostilities, the fourth day of the protests in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, according to anti-government groups, stated that Tuesday’s protests were the most extreme.
Pro-demonstration groups described how security forces from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and Islamist militias violently clashed with peaceful protestors for two hours. They stated that:
“this time it was more violent and on a larger scale, leading to several casualties.” With another statement saying that the “Total number of martyrs [are] 21”.
Thousands of protestors, calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, have converged outside the defence ministry’s headquarters with the risk of being hit by bullets and tear gas. Supporting the protestors is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) which is a democratic alliance of 15 professional organisations. It formed in 2016 as a way to defend their rights against the draconian regime under President Omar al-Bashir. An alliance charter was created by three of Sudan’s largest professional groups. Namely, The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, The Sudanese Journalists Network, and The Democratic Lawyers Association who have actively supported the protestors.
Now even some soldiers are supporting the protestors after trying to protect them, on Sunday night, against the government’s security organs. The four that they consist of are: the police, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and Rapid Support Forces militia.
Since these protests began the number of dead have been estimated at seven people, but Tuesday’s protest saw more casualties. According to a 9th April 2019, translated from Arabic, Facebook post of The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD):
“Total number of martyrs [are] 21 […] of them five-armed people’s forces with the total number of wounded at 153 [people]. A number of them are critical. We expect the final outcome of the martyrs to rise to the risk of some cases of [the] wounded.”
The SPA Facebook post entitled ‘Letter to all International and Regional Actors in Sudan’ stated, “In the early hours of today [the 9th of April 2019] forces of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), backed with Islamist militias, attacked peaceful protestors in front of the Headquarters of the Armed Forces, where a massive sit-in began on the 6th of April and continues to this moment. This attack, which lasted for over two hours, was the third of its kind since the beginning of the sit-in, but this time it was more violent and on a larger scale, leading to several casualties. Members of the armed forces intervened again to protect the protestors but [only] after some delay. NISS forces are still attacking groups of peaceful protestors who are trying to join the sit-in.”
President al-Bashir has governed Sudan since 1989 and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has two warrants for his arrest the first issued on 4th March 2009 and the second on 12th July 2010 for genocide and killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. As well as crimes against humanity, murder, extermination, rape and torture and including war crimes and attacks on civilians in Darfur. However due to ICC policy, “Until Omar Al Bashir is arrested and transferred to the seat of the Court in The Hague, the case will remain in the Pre-Trial stage. The ICC does not try individuals unless they are present in the courtroom.”
Even al-Bashir’s route into power was full of power moves after he overthrew an elected government that replaced the former president Gaafar Nimeiry who had governed for two terms. Nimeiry’s first term was from 1969 – 1980 but during his second fateful term for five years he was overthrown by protestors in 1985.
The protestors chose the date of the 6th of April 2019 to start their sit-in outside the defence ministry’s headquarters as as it was the 34th anniversary of the uprising against Nimiery. This was a symbolic reminder to al-Bashir that he should leave, or the same thing would happen to him. Prior to these recent 2019 protests nationwide protests first started in December 2018 with the government announcing that prices for fuel and bread would rise.
When al-Bashir seized power, Sudan was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between north and south. He tried to keep a unified Sudan, but part of the peace deal was a referendum on secession for South Sudan. In the January 2011 referendum an overall majority of South Sudanese voters were in favour of separation. The independent state of South Sudan was declared six months later and saw the emergence of the world’s newest country. However, after the split the oil-rich Sudan’s economy was badly affected by economic woes which the government is currently facing as well as the political unrest.
A Statement on Monday attributed to the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on Sudan said:
“The Secretary-General is following closely the demonstrations in Sudan. He appeals to all actors to exercise utmost restraint and avoid violence. He calls for full respect for human rights, including the freedom of assembly, the freedom of expression, and the release of detained protestors. He further calls on the Government of the Sudan to create a conducive environment for a solution to the current situation and to promote an inclusive dialogue. The Secretary-General affirms that the United Nations stands ready to support any efforts agreed by the Sudanese to peacefully resolve the current crisis.”