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The Sudanese Military has publicly blamed civilian protesters for the deadly military crackdown that resulted in the murders of dozens of civilians in a protest camp. The Sudanese military claims that the protestors committed crimes by closing off roads and creating barricades, and that the protestors aggravated the situation to the point that the military had to intervene. Paramilitary security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum. The protesters are demanding a transition to civilian rule after the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the military is not complying with their requests.
Lieutenant General Omar, from the ruling Transnational Military Council, says, “the Alliance for Freedom and Change (the umbrella protest movement) is fully responsible for recent unfortunate incidents … including blocking roads which are violating international humanitarian laws.” According to al Jazeera, Omar said that the goal of military intervention and violence is “to restore life back to normal.” On the opposing side, Amjad Farid, a spokesman for a leading protest group called the Sudanese Professionals Association, is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We are committed to a peaceful revolution to counter the coup by the Transitional Military Council. The strikes will continue. The public marches will continue. The revolution will continue.” The civilian strike is unlikely to bring down the TMC, but it could divide its leaders according to Waleed Madibo from the Sudan Policy Forum who explains, “by using violence as an imperative, it [the military] left the civic society no option but to go through with civil disobedience. They’re already rounding up political dissidents, they started assassinating leaders of the sit-in, and by doing so the Transitional Military Council has totally eliminated any chance of a political outcome.”
Protests in Sudan began in December as Sudanese civilians responded to inflation and economic crisis after the secession of South Sudan. These protests caused the creation of the Alliance for Freedom and Change. The protests also resulted in the ousting of the former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The protesters demanded a government controlled by civilians but the military took power, which has led to even more protests by civilians in support of democracy. The civilians involved in these protests have protest camps in the capital, one of which was attacked by paramilitary groups this Monday.
The use of violent force against non-violent protestors is incredibly alarming, along with the concerning lack of communication and accountability for the military, which currently has power after President al-Bashir’s ousting. The fact that the military is causing disproportionate violence against non-violent civilian striking and sit-in protests, and also resisting calls to return the government to civilian rule as promised, will inevitably lead to more instability and chaos rather than establishing peace in the area.
The continued aggressive and violent actions of the military are concerning when looking at the future of Sudan. Even with the promise of democratic elections in nine months, there is a growing fear that the al-Bashir regime is so well established that any elections may cause a resurgence of undemocratic practices. Additionally, non-violent protesters continually being met with violence from the military could lead to an escalation of violence from both sides. Fear of military from the people in Khartoum and the increasing brutality of the military is presenting a concerning humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The desire of the pro-democracy forces of a peaceful transition to civilian rule seems unlikely based on the violence from the military controlled government and an increasing lack of communication between them.