Sudan 2019: What has changed a year on from revolution?
In December 2018, a protest movement in Sudan emerged as a voice against the country’s economic demise, but it would go on to become an anti-government drive that would result in the country’s most significant change for three decades. It would transform into a revolution that nobody could have predicted and one that the outcome of which is yet to be decided.
For Sudan, 2020 begins with Omar al-Bashir ousted from power and the promise of more change to come over the next year and beyond. One of Africa’s most notorious dictators is now behind bars but what has really changed for Sudan since the revolution began at the turn of 2019?
Bashir’s 30-year rule comes to an end
The most drastic change for Sudan in 2019 – and arguably one of the most significant in Africa this year – is the fact that Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule over the country has come to an end.
Even at the height of Sudan’s protest movement, it was difficult to image the strongman being overthrown.
Yet that is precisely what happened on 11 April 2019 when the national army ousted Bashir from power and established itself as the ruling military.
Sudan’s protest movement celebrated its biggest objective being realised but a long transition of power was only just beginning.
Human rights violations resume
While Sudan’s protest movement was initially sparked over economic factors, it evolved into an anti-Bashir movement demanding an end to his regime and justice for human rights violations under his rule.
With Bashir out of power, the movement’s attention shifted to ensuring the implementation of a civilian government and accountability of those who committed crimes under the previous regime – Bashir included.
After the military ousted Bashir from power, an awkward peace existed between the protest movement that was still calling for political change and the ruling military that had just secured power.
Unfortunately, though, this peace failed on 3 June when heavily armed paramilitary killed at least 128 protesters who were staging a peaceful sit-in and raped of many more.
It was the most brutal event to date in Sudan’s revolutionary protest movement and it proved human rights violations in the country were not restricted to the regime of Omar al-Bashir.
It also put the prospect of a peaceful transition of power in serious doubt.
The breakthrough finally comes
With concern mounting over Sudan’s ability to reach a peaceful conclusion to its revolution, the ruling military and the country’s leading rebel group struck a power-sharing deal in August 2019. On paper, at least, the protest movement had secured its primary goal in terms of overthrowing Bashir and paving the way for a civilian-led government.
It was an unprecedented breakthrough but it didn’t come without some uncomfortable question marks over the role the military council will play in Sudan’s political future.
Under the agreement, a military leader will head the 11-member council for an initial 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. The peace deal means the military council retains a slight, but significant majority of control until early 2021, at which point the transitional to predominantly civilian rule is due to take place.
Assuming nothing changes until then, of course. Understandably, the agreement was met with a mixed response.
What next for Sudan in 2020?
The significance of what has changed in Sudan over the past year is difficult to comprehend. Yet the ousting of al-Bashir from power forces the country to instigate an even more drastic period of change, during which the country will have to rebuild its entire political identity.
For the protestors who fought so hard to remove Bashir from power, the primary concerns will be that the former president’s allies don’t cling onto power and that those responsible for decades of human rights violations under his rule will be held accountable.
But there are so many more questions yet to be answered.
For example, women played a pivotal role in Sudan’s revolution but the future of women’s rights in Sudan remains under question. Likewise, the killing of more than a hundred protestors, while the military council was in total control, is something that needs to be addressed.
The ruler of Sudan certainly changed in 2019 but the most pressing social issues evident in the country are yet to be addressed. In fairness, there has been little time to instigate significant reforms beyond the transition of power itself but the reality is that Sudan’s transitional government has all of the hard work ahead of it.
The potential is there but none of it is realised.
Featured image: By VOA – Sudanese Celebrate Signing of Political Agreement After Months of Protests, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81635510