As widespread popular protests continued in Sudan, military forces began a brutal new crackdown on 3 June. The death toll is currently at 100, and is expected to rise.
Sudan has been gripped by mass protests since December 2018. The government had previously implemented a set of austerity measures with the backing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Rising food prices and the struggle for free elections have sustained popular unrest.
The protests achieved some success in forcing Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir to step aside after nearly three decades in power. The country’s main power structures centring around the military, however, remained. The Sudanese military junta which took power after al-Bashir has promised future elections, but the Sudanese protesters have demanded immediate civilian rule. For weeks, there was a sit-in at the military headquarters to try and pressure the junta.
Some observers, however, are concerned that the situation could be harnessed and manipulated by external powers – notably the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel – to install a more friendly authoritarian regime.
Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), also known as the Janjaweed militias, are widely feared in the country. They have a legacy of brutal repression: in 2005, they reportedly attacked and terrorised civilians who had already been victims of violence. As Human Rights Watch writes:
there is irrefutable evidence of a Sudanese government policy of systematic support for, coordination of, and impunity from prosecution granted to the “Janjaweed militias,” a policy that continues to this day.
The Sudanese government relied on these militias to undertake its brutal counterinsurgency operations in Darfur.
The latest repression – reportedly by a force of 10,000 of such militiamen – began in Khartoum on 3 June. 40 bodies have reportedly been “pulled from the [river] Nile in Khartoum”, and 100 people have been confirmed dead. This toll, however, is likely much higher. And as the Guardian reported:
Activists estimate 10 people were killed on Tuesday, five in the White Nile state, three in Omdurman and two in Khartoum’s Bahri neighbourhood. The dead included several children, one aged eight.
Ahmed Kaballo is a Sudanese-British journalist and activist. He spoke to The Canary about what’s going on in Sudan, and news from his family there:
A female protester on the ground, meanwhile, told The Canary on 3 June:
Today is the most heartbreaking thing we have endured since the sit-in started…
Barricades now fill the streets. And we will return to the protests in the streets just like in December.
there is no sufficient guarantee in place to ensure that these [dual use] items will not be exploited to facilitate human rights violations.
Featured image via screengrab/France 24 English
- Stop the massacre in Sudan, Sat 8 June, 1 pm, Trafalgar Square, London. Called by the Alliance of Sudanese Political Forces and Sudanese trade unions in Britain.
- For solidarity details go to menasolidaritynetwork.com.
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