Jan. 6, 2020 (GIN) – From a cell inside the court in Khartoum, Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir heard the judgement against him – two years in detention for money laundering and corruption.
It was a dramatic fall for the former regional power broker who rose through the ranks from paratroop officer to colonel in the Sudanese Army, from Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation to finally all the posts of chief of state, prime minister, chief of the armed forces, and minister of defense. He served as president of Sudan for 30 years.
As a brigadier in the Sudanese Army, he led a group of officers in a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
He ruled with an iron fist – his 30-year dictatorship was marked by oppression, genocide, and human rights abuses.
In the Darfur region, he fought a war against south Sudanese that resulted in death tolls estimated between 200,000 and 400,000, according to the U.N., from either combat, starvation or disease. This produced an arrest warrant in 2010 for the crime of genocide but it was dismissed by the Sudanese government and opposed by the African Union, League of Arab States and the Non-Aligned Movement as well as the governments of Russia and China.
Eight years later, price increases in fuel and bread set off angry protests and finally a demand for Mr. Bashir’s removal from power. After months of unrest, Sudan’s military stepped in and toppled Mr Bashir on April 11, 2019.
Al Bashir was finally done in by corruption. Millions of dollars were discovered stuffed in suitcases and a large hoard of foreign currency was found at his home.
As Mr. Bashir is over 70, he will serve his 2-year sentence in a state-run reform center. An appeal is being mounted, say his lawyers who called the verdict ‘political.’
Still, many are unsatisfied with the short sentence. “It’s just a slap on the wrist,” said a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association. “Bashir needs to answer for his role in the 1989 coup, torture and killings including crimes against humanity in Darfur.”
Jehanne Henry of a Human Rights Watch who focuses on Sudan, added” “The trial for these charges of financial crimes does not address the human rights violations that so many Sudanese have experienced. So the sentence will not likely satisfy the many thousands of victims of abuses under al-Bashir’s 30 year rule.”
Apr. 15, 2019 (GIN) – Protests that began over the skyrocketing price of bread and shortages of food and fuel have accomplished what few people believed was possible in a country ruled by a leader with an iron fist.
A Sudanese people’s movement was born on the streets of Khartoum. Hundreds of thousands of women and men hunkered down and braved attacks by anti-riot police.
“The scale of the protests is unprecedented,” Shawgi Mahadi Mustafa, a Sudanese journalist based in Qatar, marveled. Troops that once turned back opponents with ease were unable to clear a sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum.
This month, the hardline president, Omar al-Bashir, was forced to step down after three decades in power but a tough military man was put in his place. Demonstrators held the line, saying they would continue the rallies until a civilian leadership was installed.
The protesters are demanding a quicker move than the military’s announced two-year transition to an elected government.
One demonstrator, Ala’a Salah, told the Voice of America she was skeptical that the military would hand over power.
When Bashir’s regime came to power, she recalled, it was under similar circumstances. “They gave promises that they didn’t fulfill,” she said. “We need proof, not only talk, and we’re staying until our demands are fulfilled.”
The military’s transitional leadership has changed twice since it said Bashir had been placed under house arrest. Among those detained are his former interior minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and former head of the ruling party Ahmed Haroun. The three men are all wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes related to atrocities in Darfur.
Last week, the military council appointed Hashem Abdel Muttalib as army chief of staff, and said the move was aimed at changing the military. Hashem was appointed by Bashir in February as vice-chief of army staff.
But the protesters appear determined to remain in the streets, unconvinced that the military is fully on their side.
The main protest organizer, the Sudanese Professionals Association, has called for more people to join the demonstrations and the demands for civilian rule.