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Sudan – Mass civilian protests in city streets on the third anniversary of Bashir’s ouster

Synopsys .. 1. Sudan is an oil-rich, big African country that has seen decades of internal strife, massacre of civilians, bifurcation of country, and ouster of its disgraced military dictator Omar al-Bashir. His ouster took place in December 2019 after mammoth street protests that overwhelmed Bashir’s government.

2. Bashir was ousted and arrested, but normalcy remains elusive still.

3. Bashir had grabbed power in 1989 through a military uprising. He clung to power for 30 years during which the country saw horrendous crimes against rebels from the south. Hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians were killed in the Darfur region by Bashir-backed militias. The massacre, one of the worst in history, moved the conscience of the whole world. UN sanctions, slapping of genocide charges against Bashir in the International Court, and stern warnings from the western countries followed. Bashir has summons from the Court chasing him now.

4. The war in Darfur, also known as Land Cruiser War, was extremely bloody and savage. It started in the Darfur region in 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups started an armed uprising against the Bashir government. Darfur has a large population who are not ethnically Arab. Bashir’s forces targeted them, unleashing brutality of unimaginable proportions. The horror of the armed attacks shook the conscience of the whole world. Sudan was put under strict sanctions by the U.S. and the U.N.

5. Sudan was later divided into two parts – North and South. 75% of the oil reserves fell in the south. Sudan could retain only 25%.

6. Due to the sanctions and the fall of oil revenue after the bifurcation, Sudan’s economy nosedived. Prices soared as high inflation blighted the economy. The country was in turmoil as civilians began to protest in large numbers.

7. Unrelenting mass protests by public finally crippled Bashir’s administration. He was deposed and arrested. Protesters assumed democratic government would replace the disgraced Bashir, but that was not to be.

8. Sudan’s military stepped in to hold power, much to the chagrin of the protesters. To placate the public, the military coup leaders constituted a Sovereignty Council, and put Abdullah Handok as its head. He was made the prime minister and authorized to constitute his cabinet.

9. The military continued to meddle in administration and didn’t cede fill powers to Handok. An war of attrition between the military leaders and the Handok camp started resulting in much confusion in the government. In the meanwhile hardship of ordinary people grew as prices continued to rise and fuel subsidies were withdrawn.

10. In another coup staged on October 25 this year, Prime minister Handok along with his council of ministers were detained, though briefly, by the military. The precarious position of the civilian leadership became public.
Sudan now faces great uncertainty as the military with some suspected Bashir loyalists continues to delay the country’s return to democracy. As a ploy to buy time, the military rulers have proposed that general elections be held in 2023. The young people are more restive than ever.
The latest story from Khartoum (Sudan’s capital)…
On Sunday, December 20, hundreds and thousands of Sudanese young men and women descended on the streets of the cities across the country to mark the third anniversary of Bashir’s ouster, and to remind the present military rulers that they must pack up and go paving the way for elections and restoration of a genuinely elected government to take over the reins of power. They seemed determined and defiant. Since the October 25 military coup, nearly 45 people from among the protesters have died after being fired upon by military forces. Such brutal crackdown has not deterred the protesters. They seemed to be more adamant than ever.
Rumours are rife that the military rulers are preparing to leave. The energy of the protesters has increased, not waned a bit. Yet an air of despair and despondency hangs heavy among the masses. Many suspect that another set of military despots would replace the present ones, and the Sudanese people would never enjoy democratic freedom in the foreseeable future.
Ever since its independence in 1956, Sudan has been plagued by a series of revolutions, dictatorships, coups and countercoups. Many elderly Sudanese today are bewildered, pessimistic, and resigned to the fact that their country can never breathe the air of freedom and prosperity. With galloping inflation and 40% unemployment, Sudan is doing worse than even Syria and Afghanistan. Chances of a quick economic turnaround seem remote.
There is still some hope. Those who are in the forefront of protest are youngsters with median age of 19. They refused to be cowed down by bullets. The more the military leaders dig in their heels, the more stubborn these youngsters become to confront and dislodge them. Sudanese young men have a creditable record of confronting military coup leaders and hounding them out of power. They swamp the dictators by their sheer numbers and sting them out of power.

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