BY UMSU PRESS
A Ray of Hope - Coup d'etat
There was a major shift in political power in Sudan with what began as a street protest, escalating into an 8-month long civil disobedience which would inevitably be known as the Sudan Revolution. For years, there has been a rapid rate of inflation in Sudan especially concerning the county’s staple foods such as bread in addition to worsening economic prospects following a devaluation of the local currency as well as the removal of subsidies for wheat and electricity. This eventually led to a series of demonstrations in major cities throughout Sudan. However, the people needed a scapegoat or a “face” to bear the brunt of their anger which eventually led to demands for economic reforms as well as calls for the resignation of Sudan’s long-term military dictator, President Omar al-Bashir.
The protest was then met with stern retaliation by President al-Bashir. He then declared a state of emergency leading to the dissolution of both state and regional governments as well as mass emancipation of protesters. Fortunately, President al-Bashir quickly changed his tone soon after allowing the release of several civilians and women protesters. The military saw this as an opportunity to dispose of the long-standing dictator on 11 April 2019 which led to the establishment of a Transitional Military Council (TMC) to spread-heart governance.
The Khartoum Massacre
On the 3rd of July 2019, the armed forces of the Sudanese TMC (TMC) used heavy gunfire and tear gas to disperse a sit-in by protesters in Khartoum which eventually led to a death of over 100 civilians. In addition, it was reported that at least 40 bodies were disposed of in the Nile River in effort to cover up the numbers. There are also reports that at least 70 men and women were raped during the ordeal.
With a wave of instability and uncertainty spreading like wildfire throughout the country, a concession needed to be made. This consequently followed to the formation of an alliance between TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change on the 5th of July 2019, whereby they agreed to a 39-month transition process to return to democracy, including the formation and separation of power between the executive, legislative and judicial institutions which would give birth to a new constitution being formed. The agreement also includes democratic elections being held as early as 2023.
A friend no more - Betrayal by the military
On the 25th of October, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s top general, went for the low blow when he orchestrated an unprecedented power grab by detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other civilian leaders, also firing ambassadors who resisted the takeover. It was estimated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that roughly 170 civilians were harmed with an estimated death toll of 7. In addition, to prevent the news of a hostile takeover from reaching the eyes and ears of international media, the Sudanese military shut down the internet, making it difficult to fully grasp the scope of the resistance and the response of security forces. Hence, the outskirts were left in the dark in hopes of weakening the strong and well organised Sudan’s civil society, which helped to bring about the revolution that ousted al-Bashir in 2019 as well as preventing mini outbreaks of political demonstrations.
However, this move was anticipated by both the Human Rights Watch as well as the civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The key reason for this was the 2020 peace deal which brought the rebels into the transition which added another dimension of competing interest. In addition, there has been mounting pressure on the military to abide by their promises to hand over the government to the civilian-led government as well as calls for accountability for their participation in the Khartoum massacre. This resulted in the power-accustomed military protecting their interest by stepping in to preserve their rule as long as time permits.
To dampen the flames of frustration among its civilians, al-Burhan has stated that they would instead appoint a technocratic government to handle matters of governance until the country is ready to host elections, which is forecasted to be held in July 2023. Furthermore, he also bizarrely claimed that Hamdok was taken to al-Burhan’s home for his safety and was only placed under house arrest until the situation calms down. Nonetheless, the prime minister has since returned to his residence but under the watchful eyes of the military. In response to the situation, President Hamdok has urged for the release of all detainees as well as restoration of constitutional institutions as they were before the hostile takeover if the military hopes to procure a chance for any dialogue for reconciliation.
The world is watching - and so is Malaysia
The international community has called upon a de-escalation of the situation to restore any lingering hopes of democracy in Sudan following an emergency session on 5th November 2021 by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). The United States of America as usual is leading the way for peace talks as the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken urged al-Burhan in a phone call for the immediate release of all political figures detained since the coup and urged for a dialogue that will instate Prime Minister Hamdok to the office and restore the civilian-led governance in Sudan. It is expected that the US will leverage upon its economic position to try and speed up the formation of the civilian government by introducing sanctions to further squeeze the military-led government into a deal. In addition, due to Sudan’s turbulent economy, it would require major foreign aid and financial aid from the IMF and the World Bank to help restructure its economy and revitalise consumer and business sentiments.
The Malaysian government, on the other hand, is closely monitoring the situation in Sudan. Recently, Wisma Putra has ensured the safety of all 49 Malaysians in Sudan with 1 even managing to return. In case of a necessity, steps will be taken to ensure every Malaysian returns safely to home soil.
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2021
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