Protests against Sudan President Omar al-Bashir have reached a crescendo with the declaration that the army has staged a coup d’état in the capital Khartoum and will form a new transitional government. Here are the key facts you should know about the dramatic events that have engulfed the African country:
Huge numbers of Sudan protesters
The ousting of President Omar al-Bashir comes off the back of the largest wave of anti-government protests since he came to power in a coup in 1989. There have been more than 700 protests across the country since the current unrest began.
How the protests started
The protests began in mid-December 2018 with demonstrations by high school students against the steep rise in the cost of bread in Atbara city, River Nile state. The government had introduced new austerity measures, including cuts to bread and fuel subsidies, following a decrease in oil production and years of US sanctions. On 20 December, similar protests took place in several Sudanese cities, and they included calls for al-Bashir to step down.
Security forces respond with violence
The government reacted to the protests with unlawful, excessive and sometimes lethal force – using live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas, and attacking the injured inside hospitals. At least 59 people have been killed, hundreds injured, and thousands arrested since the protests began. The government had deployed armed men with their faces covered to crush the protests.
Social media crackdown
The government clamped down on the freedoms of expression and information by cutting off access to social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. The sites have largely remained offline, but many people have continued to access the platforms through VPNs.
Workers’ union leading protests
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) rose to the forefront of protests. It initially called for a workers’ march to demand an increase in the minimum wage as a result of mass inflation, but since late December expanded its demands to call for al-Bashir to step down. The SPA has been organizing most of the protests on the streets.
Al-Bashir’s defiant reaction
President al-Bashir referred to the protesters as “rats”, and former Vice-President Ali Osman Taha spoke of a shadow militia that would rise to maintain the government. In February, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and sacked several government ministers. However, speaking on state TV on 11 April army chief Awad Ibn Ouf said al-Bashir was being removed and would be kept in a “safe place”.
Wanted for war crimes
Arrest warrants for al-Bashir and three other members of his government were issued by the International Criminal Court in March 2009. The warrant details charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur. However, al-Bashir has so far evaded justice for human rights violations. Amnesty International believes he should now be handed over and accountability must be a key issue in any future political negotiations.
Social media users have been commenting on the protests on the hashtags #SudanUprising – #SudanRevolts – #مدن_السودان_تنتفض – #تسقط_بس