The past week has seen social media turning blue in solidarity with Sudan. Voices have also been raised that not enough media attention is being given to the pro-democracy demonstrators who who have faced brutal crackdown violence in the form of death, rapes, and missing family members.
So, what’s happening in the country?
Located in the northeast of Africa, the Republic of Sudan is currently embroiled in a political and humanitarian crisis. In the past few weeks, protestors have gathered in the capital city of Khartoum. According to Amnesty International serious human rights violations are being committed by the Sudanese army.
How did it all begin?
In December 2018, the government under Omar al-Bashir took a decision to increase the prices of necessities like bread and fuel. This, the government hoped would help the worsening current economy of the country.
The move met with protests and demands that the undemocratic Omar al-Bashir, who has been in charge for nearly thirty years to step down or be removed from power. The protests reached their high point in April 2019 when protestors gathered around the town square in front of the military headquarters and demanded that the army help them in overthrowing the President. Less than a week later, al-Bashir had been forced out and has since been held under high security.
Sudan is now under the rule of the Transitional Military Council headed by Lieutenant Abdelrahman Burhan. The council says that it needs to be in charge in order to maintain peace and security in the nation. This arrangement was destined to be plagued in problems as there is no one single unified army but various paramilitary and militia including Islamist militia.
The demands of the Protestors
The protestors are mostly young citizens, and women who have been at the forefront of the demonstrations. They are being led by the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) that includes doctors, health workers, and lawyers. The SPA said that this was 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.”
The demonstrators are unhappy with the rule of the military council and want them to transfer power to a full civilian government chosen by a democratic electorate. Initially, talks were organized to decide on a successor to al-Bashir but the negotiations collapsed, leading to protests and a military crackdown that resulted in many deaths.
The Aftermath of attack on Protestors
The use of fierce brutality and tear gassing of the protestors has led to multiple injuries and even deaths. While demonstrators have protested against the use of brutal violence the Military Council has said that it regrets the manner in which the events escalated but their actions were only aimed at trouble makers and petty criminals. Protestors put the number of dead at five hundred with a thousand missing while the official figures are around 50.
Those in power are also trying to suppress any kind of dissent by introducing night time curfew and emergency laws. Schools and colleges have been closed. There is therefore an effective restriction on the movement of the people.
The World Reaction
The countries of the West and Africa have supported the protest. The United Kingdom said that the full responsibility lied with the Transitional Military Council while the United States has labelled it as a “brutal attack.” The US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, referred to the violence in Khartoum as deplorable and abhorrent.
The Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt are in favour of talks between the two sides but have refused to criticize the military in the fear that similar protests might take place in their own countries. The Sudanese have also promised all help to Saudi Arabia including sending troops to the Saudi led coalition in Yemen.
There have also been talks of solving the issue amicably. But when talks broke down, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew to Sudan to try to broker a new agreement between the warring groups and days later it was announced that the demonstrators had agreed to suspend strikes and cooperate in finding a solution. In the interim, the army promised to release the political prisoners. While no dates have been announced for further talks there are already calls for independent investigation.
Meanwhile, Sudan has been suspended from the African Union (AU) until a civilian led transitional authority is in power. United Nations (UN) is removing non-essential staff from Sudan and there were cake for sanctions but the move has been vetoed by Russia and China.
Blue for Sudan
In past week, social media users across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have turned their profile picture blue in solidarity with Sudan with the hashtag, #BlueforSudan
The hashtag #BlueforSudan that is trending is a powerful representative of the death of the twenty six year old engineer Mohammed Mattar who was fatally shot during the June 3 demonstrations. Mattar was reportedly trying to protect two women when he was shot be the Rapid Support Force, one of the many paramilitaries in the country. His favourite colour was blue. Blue now represents all the fallen Sudanese.
#BlueForSudan how people can help the Sudanese
On the verge of a “human rights abyss” it is important to help the Sudanese by spreading information and preventing normalisation of the crisis. Recently Nesrine Malik wrote in The Guardian, “For those who ask how to help Sudan, the answer is by preventing the normalisation project and aiding the Sudanese people in getting their message out during the blackout. A message that makes it clear that the deaths and rapes have not worked, that although they are still happening, people will not suffer in vain. Find people on the ground and amplify their voices. Fund verified medical support campaigns. Circulate accounts from journalists who are covering the trauma.”
Other ways to help them include donating to UNICEF, Save the Children, and International Rescue Committee that work to provide assistance to affected children and families.
It is time the world starts to take notice of what’s happening in Sudan. This is not the time for indifference but of championing the cause of peaceful protesters and their demands for return of democracy.