A Thirty-Year Rule Ends In Sudan

Apr 23, 2019 By Christine H, Writer
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The North African country of Sudan is in a state of crisis.

Last week, President Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the military, ending his 30 years of power over the country. This happened after months of protests and demonstrations by Sudanese of all ages and backgrounds. The military states that Mr Bashir has been arrested and kept under guard in a safe location.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr Bashir’s career and the events that led to his ouster.

Who is Omar al-Bashir?

Mr Bashir was born into a peasant family in northern Sudan. He joined the Egyptian army and fought against Israel during the war between the two countries in 1973. He returned to Sudan and rose through its army ranks.

In the 1980s, Sudan was embroiled in a civil war between its north and south. Mr Bashir helped lead the Sudan army in its fight against the rebels of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). In 1989, Mr Bashir seized control in a military coup against the government. He dissolved the parliament, banned political parties and controlled the press.

In 2003, a new rebellion started in Darfur in western Sudan, claiming unfair treatment from the government. Mr Bashir enlisted the help of Janjaweed, an Arab militia group accused of many atrocities against civilians. The conflict not only took many lives but also displaced almost two million people within Sudan and across its borders into other countries, primarily Chad. 

As a result, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions in 2007 and the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued multiple arrest warrants for Mr Bashir in 2009 and 2010, charging him with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in Darfur. However, Sudan, which is not part of the ICC, denied the charges and claimed that Mr Bashir was innocent. 

Meanwhile, the rebellion by the SPLA continued in south Sudan. Under pressure from the international community, Mr Bashir finally agreed to a peace pact in 2005. As part of the peace agreement, a referendum was held in 2011 for south Sudan to determine if they would remain part of Sudan or secede. The result was overwhelmingly for secession, and on July 9, 2011, South Sudan became a new country.

What Caused The Protests?

In the late 1990s, oil was discovered in Sudan, leading to a period of economic boom. However, Sudan lost most of its oil fields with the secession of South Sudan. The loss of oil revenue, along with the effects of U.S. sanctions caused an economic downturn.  

By 2018, Sudan’s inflation (price rise) was at 72%, and there were shortages of fuel and food. In December 2018, the Government imposed austerity measures and cut fuel and bread subsidies. This triggered protests across the country. While the protests were initially focused on rising costs, they soon turned into demands for a change in government.

On April 6, which is the anniversary date of a non-violent uprising in 1985 that removed then-dictator Jaafar Nimeiri, the protests reached a climax when demonstrators reached the gates of Mr Bashir’s home at the army headquarters.

What Will Happen Next?

The head of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has indicated that the council will rule Sudan for the next two years, and then hand over control to a civilian government. 

However, the groups behind the protests are concerned that the military, which still has many members loyal to Mr Bashir, will rule indefinitely or hand control over to someone in the military. So far, they are urging demonstrators to continue their protests outside the army headquarters while they meet with the military council to establish a government that is elected by the people.

Sources: BBC, NYTimes, Britannica, AlJazeera, UNHCR, icc-cpi.int