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Back in April, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir was ousted after months of protests and a military coup. What has followed has been a violent attack on civilian protesters by military officials as the country transitions to new power. Here, all you need to know about what’s happening in Sudan, including the recent killings, internet blackout, and protests.
What happened to the former president?
In April, a coup led to the ousting of the Sudanese president, who had been in power since 1989 and had previously been indicted for war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Once the president left, military leaders said they would agree to civilian rule, though they then stepped in to run the transitional government. The New York Times reports that civilian negotiators offered a compromise that would feature rotating power between the civilians and military leaders. However, the talks dissolved and civilians instituted a two-day strike.
So how did things turn violent?
In what seems to be a response to the strike, paramilitary and security forces raided unarmed demonstrators at the capital of Sudan who were peacefully protesting.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, the violence resulted in 52 people dead and 784 injured, though the report says that the number of injured people could be higher. The military also created an internet blackout by cutting off mobile data, which NPR reports most Sudanese people use to access the internet, leaving many without the ability to communicate or disseminate information.
Other civilian reports have put the death count at over 100 and have said a number of bodies were dumped into the Nile river. According to the Times, civilians reported that soldiers had raped women and looted stores, while other burned tents and beat protesters. Protest leaders say the violence stretched beyond the capital and into a number of towns across the country.
The group that instigated much of the violence is called the Rapid Support Forces, led by a man named Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, otherwise known as Hemeti. Hemeti came to prominence as a commander of a militia group called the janjaweed (from which the RSF was formed) that was accused of atrocities in Darfur in the 2000s, according to the Times. Both Hemeti and the leader of the military coup (more about him, below) have a close relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have funneled billions of dollars to the military forces that have assumed power in Sudan.
What do protesters want?
The pro-democracy movement, led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, wants civilian rule and a long period of transition before new elections begin in order to prepare voter rolls and give the country’s political system time to settle and mature. At first, the pro-democracy organizers and military council had agreed to a three-year plan to transition to democracy, but negotiations fell apart, and instead, the military has said they will hold elections within nine months.
This past Sunday, following the violence, NPR reports that a civil disobedience campaign “brought the country’s capital to a standstill.” The strike is being led by the SPA, who has said it’s the “only measure left for the Sudanese people to hold the country from collapsing into total chaos and insecurity under the rule of the military coup council.”
While the SPA say that the military leaders in government claim to be preparing for “general and fair elections,” they believe “any government that comes as a result of such arrangements would have no shred of legitimacy.”
The leader of the military coup, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has said that “all involved in the events that lead to the disruption of the protests site will be held accountable and brought to justice,” however CNN reports that, as of Thursday, there was still heavy military presence in Sudan’s capital, as well as other cities.