Northeastern African nation Sudan has once again fallen into crisis. Months of political protests in and around the capital city of Khartoum have turned violent this week, gaining the attention of the world. Reports of military violence against protesters, women being raped, and more wartime atrocities have leaked, despite the fact that the military cut off internet access in an attempt to quash the information.
In fact, the world now has its eyes on Sudan. So what is happening in the country right now, and what can you do to help? We break it down.
What is happening in Sudan?
This latest crisis began in December 2018, when the government raised prices on everyday necessities, like bread and fuel. Specifically: bread prices tripled in Atbara, a city in the eastern reaches of Sudan, and thousands of people took to the streets in anger. The protest quickly grew and spread to other cities, including Khartoum, the capital, and became about much more than food prices, transforming into country-wide protests of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year dictatorship, during which the government has committed numerous human rights violations.
These violations most infamously include the genocide in the Darfur region of the country, which started in 2003 when two rebels groups rose up against the ethnically Arab Bashir government, claiming that the government was oppressing the people in southern Sudan (largely non-ethnically-Arab Muslims and Christians). In response, the Bashir government went scorched earth, bombing villages and arming Arab Muslim paramilitary groups, including the janjaweed militia, thus starting a proxy war that would lead to the death of approximately 400,000 people.
According to many including the Human Rights Watch, the South Sudan conflict is still ongoing, despite the 2005 agreement to end the civil war at the heart of the genocide. Though American media covered the genocide heavily in the early 2000s, coverage by and large dried up, particularly after South Sudan officially became a country in 2011 as part of the 2005 agreement. But the Bashir regime has reportedly continued to harass and intimidate protesters and even blocked U.N. peacekeepers from reaching the approximately 2 million individuals who were displaced as a result of the conflict.
The government has also been behind continued bombing in the southern reaches of Sudan, numerous arrests of political activists, intimidation tactics, and violent break-ups of peaceful protests as recently as January 2018.
Fast forward to the current protests: Despite several dozen deaths in the initial December actions, protesters said they wouldn’t stop until Bashir’s government was gone and they were able to democratically elect their own leadership. One protest leader told The Guardian, “I don’t think the authorities will [be able to] control the huge number of disgruntled demonstrators. We are committed to peace.”
And in April 2019, it seemed that months of peaceful action had paid off: a collective of military officials finally removed Bashir from office after protesters gathered in front of the military headquarters to demand the military force him out.