Sudanese people dreamt of freedom, change, and an end to the autocrat, Omar Al-Bashir’s era, which was known for brutality and oppression.
With those hopes, they took to the streets in large numbers since December of last year, but violence continued, and the road ahead appeared to be challenging and uncertain.
Violence escalated when Sudanese security forces stormed into a protest sit-in on Monday, June 3, held outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. The dispersal killed more than a hundred protesters and around 500 were wounded according to the opposition’s figures.
There are also reports that women protesters and female activists are being gang-raped. Some reports also say that a number of bodies have been dumped in the river Nile.
After days of denying it, Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) admitted a major shift for the first time and that its forces dispersed the Khartoum sit-in, claiming that it also thwarted several “planned attempts coups.”
Spokesperson Shamseddine Kabbashi said that the ruling military council decided to “disperse the sit-in,” but that there are some “mistakes” and “deviations” they are sorry for, in a press conference on Thursday.
However, Kabbashi strongly refused any international investigation into the June 3 crackdown, affirming that Sudan is an independent state which has its own justice entities.
Kabbashi also revealed that there were several “coup attempts” during the last period, noting that the recent crisis and lawlessness encouraged many army officers, politicians, and others belonging to opposition groups to turn against the military council.
He added that two groups of “officers” were taken into custody.
Earlier, the ruling military council announced the formation of a joint committee to investigate the dispersal of the Khartoum sit-in. However, the protest group, the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) described the committee as “a lie,” and an attempt “to wriggle out of its crime.”
The military council’s press conference came two days after the opposition groups suspended a three-day widespread civil and political disobedience that was aimed to hand power over to a civilian-led authority.
The suspension was viewed as a wise step and a possible window that could resume negotiations between opposition figures and the military council to end the ongoing political crisis.
Talks between opposition alliances and the ruling military collapsed over deciding on who would rule the country days before the violent dispersal of their sit-in.
The opposition demands a civilian-led government.
The US, Ethiopian mediations
Last week, the United States Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, and Washington’s newly appointed special envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, arrived in Sudan to encourage talks between protest groups and the ruling military council.
Both officials met with the Head of the Military Council, Abdul Fattah Burhan, on Thursday to go over recent updates in the north African country.
The US, which arrived late to the escalating scene, is aiming to resume talks between the military council and opposition.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian special envoy and mediator, Mahmoud Dirir, disclosed earlier that talks were resumed between protest groups and the ruling military council.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, visited Sudan to mediate talks between both of them. He suggested moving the negotiations to Ethiopia, but the military council refused.
Regardless, the DFCF said in a statement on Friday that the current military council became ineligible to resume political talks on the future of Sudan.
The alliance demanded the resignation of all military council members and other commanders, as well as the judiciary head and public prosecutor. It also called for forming an international committee to investigate the June 3 crackdown.
They also called for the pulling over of “militias” from the streets of Khartoum and other cities, as well as the lifting of the blockade over the internet.
Alliance members, who met last week with Nagy and Booth, explained their demands of handing power to a civilian authority.
A good step
“I believe that suspending the civil disobedience was a good step for many reasons as Sudan suffers from critical economic problems. Most people are daily wage workers and their income is barely enough for several days,” Hafiz Angabo, Sudanese journalist and researcher told Daily News Egypt.
“Using such revolutionary tools have to take into consideration the [economic] conditions of citizens,” Angabo added.
Angabo noted that the people’s responsibility for the protest groups’ civil disobedience exceeded expectations. He said that they reflect a real desire of Sudanese people to move on to a new chapter of a country which has suffered years from military rule, totalitarian regimes, and military coups.
“I think that Sudanese people would respond to another call of a general strike if protest leaders call for it,” he said.
“From what I observed of Sudan’s uprising and the performance of the DFCF, I see that the main goal is meeting the demands of the declaration of freedom and change that they agreed on. So if demands are met, the opposition would not resort to demonstrations, or civil disobedience,” Angabo shared.
On the other hand, Angabo also pointed out the military council admission of the dispersal of Khartoum sit-in is a step toward justice. It also means that they would be able to hold those responsible for killing martyrs during the Ramadan month accountable.
“Fingers are pointed to specific persons in the military council for their involvement in the military headquarters sit-in massacre, but it seems that the whole military council decided to take the complete responsibility and to disclose the names of the people responsible. This is a big step,” Angabo concluded.
Calls for the cessation of violence
The recent violence in Sudan raises international concerns especially with reports of gang-raped women protesters, activists, and medical personnel.
The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, said, last week, that the international organisation called for deploying teams to Sudan to investigate the involvement of Sudan’s militias and rapid support forces (RSF) into the rape incidents.
“These include reported rapes and gang rapes of protesters, women’s human rights defenders, and women medical personnel working in hospitals near the sit-in perpetrated by the RSF – a paramilitary group run by the Sudanese government, primarily composed of the Janjaweed, a party to the Darfur conflict, and other militias.”
The UN also called for an immediate cessation of all violence against civilians, including sexual violence.
According to the central committee of Sudan doctors, 118 people were killed since last Monday and four of them were killed on the first day of the civil disobedience. It also added that 40 of the casualties were allegedly retrieved from the Nile river.
However, the Sudanese authority said that only around 60 were killed.
According to Amnesty International’s recent report, since the beginning of June, “there have been reports that security forces are using live ammunition on protesters. Bodies have been dumped in the river Nile.”
Over the last few days, a hashtag named “#BlueforSudan has been trending on social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Social media users turned their profile pictures blue to stand in solidarity with Sudan and to bring awareness to the country’s uprising.
The online campaign started when 26-year-old-young Sudanese, Mohamed Hashim Mattar, was killed in the crackdown against the Khartoum sit-in.
“Those who are taking part in spreading #BlueForSudan, the colour blue came from a warm-hearted, martyr known as, Mohammed Hashim Mattar, my cousin who has passed away on June 3, as he was standing proud. Blue was his favourite colour, which now presents a unity,” tweeted Omer Yousiff.
Since December, Sudanese people from a wide spectrum of society, swept into the streets to initially protest against the high increase in the cost of living. Then, they demanded the toppling of Al-Bashir and his regime, who has been in power since 1989.
Al-Bashir was eventually removed by his military generals and he is currently in prison facing charges of corruption.