Omar al-Bashir has been president of Sudan since 1989. His presidency has been riddled with war crimes, corruption, and greed. While Omar al-Bashir lives a life of luxury, ordinary Sudanese families are struggling to make ends meet. In the past few years, the cost of living has skyrocketed and incomes remain as stagnant as ever. It has been said that things have gone from bad to worse within a frightening time span. Inflation reached a historical high. The cost of food, oil, and medicine went up. This triggered nationwide protests in December of 2018.
Many are under the false impression that Sudan is arriving late to the Arab Spring. Sudan’s fight for a civilian government started long before the protests of 2011. The country has a long history of demanding freedom, civil rights, and fair elections. The Sudanese people successfully ended their first military rule in 1964 under General Ibrahim Abboud. Between 1985-1989, Sudan was democratic. Under President Sadig al-Mahdi, Sudan flourished both economically and politically, as al-Mahdi advocated for democracy in the country.
In 1989, Omar al-Bashir was a part of an Islamist party that overthrew al-Mahdi's administration via military coup. Al-Bashir has spent his presidency inciting violence to further his self-serving agenda. In fact, he is the first sitting head of state to be wanted by the International Criminal Court. His charges include but are not limited to five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and the intentional direction of attacks against a civilian population. Natives of Darfur and South Sudan have been targeted and disproportionately affected by these injustices. Additionally, many people have not forgiven al-Bashir for dismembering Sudan when he allowed the secession of South Sudan.
Since the protests in December, Sudanese people have taken to the streets, shouting chants and calling for al-Bashir to step down. The sit-ins and protests all across Sudan intensified on April 6, 2019. This date marks the 34th anniversary of the revolution that brought down Nimiray’s regime. Two days after, the Sudanese military took over media outlets to announce that al-Bashir had been ousted and the Sudanese military would be the transitional government for the next two years. Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf delivered the news and announced that he would be the head of state during the transitional period. Not only was al-Bashir ousted, but he was also placed under house arrest. Many other corrupted officials were arrested as well.
However, Ibn Auf has his own laundry list of crimes. He is close to al-Bashir not just politically, but also personally; there are rumors that Ibn Auf is married to al-Bashir’s sister. None of this sat well with the Sudanese people. There are concerns that Ibn Auf will not be any different than al-Bashir. The two are cut from the same cloth. In fact, they changed the revolution hashtag from “just fall” to “just fall, again.” The following day, the Sudanese people ran back into the streets with the same chants and energy. Their efforts were successful and Ibn Auf stepped down the very next day. The protesters alone forced both men to step down. It is also important to note that the Sudanese people managed to do this without international intervention, foreign aid, or media coverage.
In the meantime, senior military official Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is in charge in Sudan. He believes in a civilian government and says he will only stay as long as he is needed (and no more than two years). He has freed all those imprisoned for protesting, as a gesture of good faith.
This past weekend, to no one’s surprise, about 112 million dollars was found hidden in Omar al-Bashir’s home. It has been reported that he is being investigated for money laundering and possession of large sums of foreign currency without legal grounds. It has also been reported that he is now being questioned in Kobar prison.
Sudanese women have always been the bedrock of Sudanese society. Recently a photo of Alaa Salah went viral (pictured above), a 22-year-old engineering student at Sudan International University. It is women like her who are leading the fight in Sudan. These women are vocal and unafraid.
My mother was born and raised in Khartoum, Sudan. My father is half Sudanese, half Ethiopian. He was raised in a small village in Darfur, a village so small that he had to go to boarding school out of town. His village was later burned to the ground by the Janjaweed militia, which is supported by al-Bashir; as a result, his family had to relocate.
Although I was born and raised in New Jersey, our Sudanese heritage was well and alive when I was growing up. We visited Sudan regularly. We were and still are deeply embedded in the Sudanese community. For me, there is no place on Earth that can replace Sudan. Sudan raised both my parents, their parents, and my grandparents’ parents. Sudan is spirited and generous with everything she has. Change—long-standing, meaningful change—never comes easily or all at once, but it does come. There is a lot of hope and optimism surrounding Sudan’s future. I could not have imagined that my last article for The Gavel would be about this moment in my country’s history, but I would not have it any other way.
I want to dedicate this piece to my uncle Dr. Amin Zainelabdin. He is an avid reader, author, and historian living in Virginia. Thank you for your unyielding encouragement and support.