On 2 October 1999, a group of people from South Africa prayed in Port Sudan. This was part of a prayer journey to Sudan. To coincide with this, an International Day of Prayer for Sudan was called for. Back home, a group of people prayed from 6 am to 6 pm on Saturday, October 2, 1999.
Right now, every Friday for six weeks, from 4 to 6 pm Sudan time, believers from various nations engage in ABIDING in Christ prayer. This six weeks runs from August 28, to October 2, 2020.
The fact that those 2 October dates, exactly 21 years apart, prompted the organizers of the Sudan Prayer Network to call for a Day of Thanksgiving for God’s mercies over the Sudans.
A ZOOM link will be posted in this article for those who would want to attend the online prayer meeting(s) on October 2, 2020. The meeting will be scheduled as follows:
4 to 6 pm – Thanksgiving prayer
6 to 7 pm – The standard weekly online Sudans Prayer meeting
7 to 9 pm – Thanksgiving prayer and committing to the road ahead.
In this article we’ll post a few memories from the tonnes of things God has done during the past 21 years in the Sudans and among it’s peoples.
The power of Sudan’s protest movement has sustained the prime minister in office – but its trust in Abdalla Hamdouk has ebbed of late. This week’s peace agreement gives him the chance to win it back.
Sudan’s transitional government signed a peace agreement with key rebel groups in late August. This was a significant step towards resolving deep-rooted conflicts from the time of former dictator Omar al-Bashir. But the real potential of the peace agreement lies not, in fact, in bringing an end to Sudan’s long-running civil wars – but in the chance to put Sudan’s transition back on stable footing.
In 2017, dramatic economic decline fuelled the demonstrations that pushed Bashir and his National Congress Party from power after 25 years in control of Sudan. At that moment, a fleeting alignment of protesters and military combined to unseat Bashir, and the transitional government that took over institutionalised this unusual union. What emerged was a civilian-led government on one side, under the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdouk; on the other, the military. The international community breathed a sigh of relief over the accord and the further bloodshed it prevented. But they and many Sudanese pinned their hopes on the civilians gaining the upper hand, seeing in them the promise of completing the peaceful transition to a new, liberal, Sudan that the protests had started to usher in.
But that vision is now under threat from an unexpected quarter – and not from a revanchist military. Instead, the threat comes from strains within the civilian camp itself, especially between the protestors and Hamdouk. To understand this, the civilian camp needs unpacking. Roughly it can be divided into “Base”, “Party”, and “Prime Minister”.
The “Base” is the protest movement, which is the truly unique element to emerge from the Revolution, in the sense that Sudanese political parties have long functioned under the fiction of having mass representational power. The protesters are organised into grassroots Local Revolutionary Committees and constitute the missing ingredient of popular democratic power that the Revolution unlocked. But the protesters have also intentionally rejected creating any formal structure for themselves, and rejected affiliating to political parties. They believe such a structure would make them vulnerable to hijacking from within; and they distrust the extant political parties, believing that the Revolution’s demands transcend party politics. The closest thing the Base has to an affiliation is with the prime minister.
The “Party” element is an amalgamation of parties, with a sprinkling of civil society actors, grouped under the umbrella of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC). The FFC emerged along with the Revolution, but the core was not new: traditional leftist and Arab nationalist political parties, veterans of Sudanese politics. When Bashir fell, the FFC took on the role of representing the Revolution including in negotiating the transition with the military.
This bestowed it with power in the transitional government’s formative period. It nominated the civilian ministers of the government including the prime minister. Thereafter its governing mandate technically ended – but the FFC took on some government functions as it saw fit, inserting itself into areas of particular interest such as the peace negotiations. As the transition stumbled, in part due to the perceived self-dealing of the FFC’s traditional political parties, the protest movement’s support for the FFC declined apace.
The result is that the FFC political parties cannot claim the mass representational power of the protest movement. This in turn calls into question the governance powers they have arrogated unto themselves. Still, international policymakers tend to make the mistake of conflating the Base and the FFC’s traditional parties, treating the latter like a traditional governing party that represents the Base.
The prime minister is a separate actor, because of the way the protest movement view him. From the outset the protesters harboured reservations about the FFC, the military, and even the entire transitional constitutional arrangement.
As the transition period has sputtered, their antipathy towards all of these has grown. But Hamdouk is in a category apart. Firstly, because as the linchpin of the civilian component of the government, were the protest movement to make him the target of their demonstrations, the military would have grounds to oust him, claiming the loss of his popular mandate.
Secondly, he is in a category apart because of his character: he has managed to convince the protest movement of his ‘genuineness’, particularly in contrast to the traditional political parties within the FFC. Since the overwhelmingly dominant political force in the country is the protest movement, the connection between prime minister and the protesters is life-sustaining for the former. It makes him untouchable by the military (or even the FFC) for fear of the popular backlash that would be released.
But amid growing tensions around the plummeting economy this link recently strained to near breaking. A misstep by the prime minister did more to threaten that bond then any governing shortcomings to date, imperilling the ‘genuineness’ that endears him to the street. On 17 August 2020, Sudanese protesters marched to deliver demands for reform to Hamdouk.
Though not the first protest march since the Revolution, it was novel in that the prime minister declined to meet them for the politically symbolic reception of their pleas, which is his usual gesture of respect and equality. A second precedent followed, adding insult to injury, when the security forces turned aggressive, tear-gassing the demonstrators and dispersing them with force. Gone was the restrained tolerance that has characterised the post-Revolution response to protests.
Sensing an opportunity, the military made a bid for the allegiance of the protest movement in a speech by General Burhan, the head of the military component of the transitional government. Sudanese read these statements with alarm as paving the way for a dramatic move from the military. The gambit duly backfired, as the protesters, despite their anger towards the prime minister, reflexively doubled down in their support for him to rule out any ambiguity about their attitude towards a military coup.
The economy itself was always shaky but has now begun a steeper slide, as seen with the fall of the Sudanese pound’s US dollar exchange rate, continuing fuel scarcity, and the resultant dramatic increase in the cost of living. In parallel, the security situation is fraying around the edges with old rivalries breaking out with new virulence. Unchecked by the distracted central state’s military organs, hundreds of dead are strewn across Sudan’s peripheries. In short, on an objective scale, conditions now are worse than those that birthed the protests undoing Bashir.
The difference between then and now is the constancy of the protesters’ support for the prime minister. This faith bought the government time and space to right the listing ship of state in the trying period following the Revolution. While this faith endured its most recent test, it may not survive further trials.
But this week’s peace agreement could help guide the ship to port. The agreement incorporates Sudan’s armed movements into the transitional government, which is a much-needed success for the prime minister. More importantly, the next steps it envisages create an opportunity to reorganise Sudanese politics along lines that better reflect the true political forces in the country.
A national constitutional conference is envisaged as the next stage in the peace process. Approached correctly, it could serve as a new way of incorporating the protest movement into some form of renewed national compact. Moreover, it might address the paradox at the heart of the protest movement: that it is both the most representational political force but also unwilling to engage in party politics. Were it a political party, it would eclipse the extant parties and dominate elections. Instead, the protest movement creates momentum that other, established forces then surf upon. Addressing this paradox is the real key to securing the civilian character of Sudan’s transformation.
The prime minister should therefore make leadership of this process a personal priority with an eye to using it to bind the protest movement closer. If left to others to lead, it will devolve into yet another political football between government factions.
Interested international partners do not need to lead this mediation. Indeed, the protest movement’s caution extends towards foreign intervention. But the transitional government, and the prime minister, are live to what key international partners say and do. At the outset, the minimum required is a clear, unified position supporting Sudanese-led efforts and allowing Sudanese to prioritise the national constitutional conference as a prerequisite to strengthening the national political foundation upon which all subsequent reforms will need to rest.
[The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.]
Some 100,000 homes damaged, 500,000 persons displaced, 100 dead, 46 injured, 43 schools damaged, more than 2,000 health centres lost at a time when they are crucial, and the grim reminder that there is more to come this month. Sudan has been ravaged by floods since late July due to heavy seasonal rainfall.
The water level of the Nile River rose to about 17.5 metres in August, the highest it has been in close to a century, according to the Sudanese Ministry of Irrigation. With weather forecasts predicting above average rains throughout September, Sudan may reach unprecedented levels of flooding. Some citizens were reluctant to leave their homes after braving many floods over the years. However, with the water being knee-high, or in some cases neck high, all were forced to abandon their houses. “In previous years, we would leave our house for two months to live with friends, but this year that was impossible, because water had entered their homes too,” said Ahmed, who was caught in the flooding.
Army troops have been deployed to aid citizens in evacuating their homes, building barricades in an attempt to keep the water at bay, and distributing food and supplies to those displaced. Access to clean water has become limited after the flooding destroyed 2,000 sources of clean water. Other utilities, such as electricity, are also experiencing unprecedented outages. As of last week, the Sudanese government has declared a three-month long state of emergency.
The flooding has, also, been threatening to damage two archaeological sites that house two pyramids that were built around the 7th century BC, which are invaluable historically and the source of much tourism in Sudan. “The situation is currently under control, but if the level of the Nile continues to rise, the measures taken may not be sufficient,” Marc Maillot, head of the French Archaeological Unit in the Sudan Antiquities Service said.
The United Nations has been providing humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical supplies and emergency shelter. On 7 September, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi sent two military aircrafts containing provisions and rain-resistant tents. Despite the aid, it may not be enough, with the UN urging the international community to send help as aid stocks have been “depleted rapidly”.
This crisis begs the question of whether or not Sudan can continue to endure these yearly floods, and whether Sudan can withstand a potentially similar, or more serious flood, in the event of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam malfunctioning. If anything, this crisis stresses the importance of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia cooperating in order to ensure that a crisis of that proportion never happens to Sudan or Egypt in the future.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 September 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly
Sudan imposed a three-month state of emergency and declared the country a natural disaster area as record floods killed 100 people and inundated more than 100,000 houses [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]
Wading through waist-deep water, residents of the al-Shigla neighbourhood in Omdurman, twin city of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, tried to rescue what was left of their possessions as they floated by.
Others stood by in despair, observing the aftermath of days of torrential rains that brought record-breaking flash floods to the country where the Blue and White Niles join to become the Nile River.
Pieces of furniture, broken tiles, damaged vehicles and more were washed away by this year’s rain that fell profusely and continuously for nearly two weeks.
The rain and flooding exceeded records set in 1946 and 1988, killing more than 100 people and forcing the government to declare a three-month state of emergency this week.
To many Sudanese like Amna Ahmed, seasonal rains, in and of themselves, are nothing new. The food vendor is usually prepared for the country’s rainy season, which lasts from June to October.
Despite losing “everything”, the 63-year-old is thankful that the devastating floods did not also take her life. This year, she is one of the thousands of people who lost their homes.
“We lost everything. We lost our homes, furniture, clothes, and we were even about to lose our lives,” the mother of four told Al Jazeera.
According to her, the Nile’s water levels increased drastically over the past few days, reaching a peak on Friday night. Since then, it has been overflowing, “demolishing everything” from homes to trees and cars.
Last week, a committee tasked with dealing with the ramifications of the floods, warned that the country may face more rains, adding that the water level in the Blue Nile rose to a record 17.58 metres.
Experts say climate change is a large part of the problem.
On Monday, authorities in Sudan declared a national state of emergency and
designated the country a natural disaster zone.
The floods have so far impacted more than half-a-million people and caused the total and partial collapse of more than 100,000 homes in at least 16 Sudanese states.
Sudan’s Khartoum, Blue Nile and River Nile states are among the hardest-hit, while damage has also been reported in the Gezira, Gadarif, West Kordofan and South Darfur regions, according to the United Nations.
“We are in very critical situation. The government’s efforts to save us are nothing comparing to the size of the actual damage,” said Ahmed, who now sleeps in front of her destroyed house.
“What we now need is shelter, food, medicine and vaccines for the children,” she said.
The desperate cries are reflected in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, where tents have been put up to accommodate the displaced.
While the government managed to evacuate residents of 43 affected villages across the country, thousands of families in Khartoum were left to hold on to whatever they could save as they wait for the floods to subside.
Some families have been sleeping on whatever dry patches of land they can find, on sidewalks and in front of demolished homes.
‘No one came to help us’
Meanwhile, Sudan’s civil defence force has been attempting to dig a drainage channel meant to reduce Nile water levels, but that has so far been unsuccessful.
Ezz Aldin Hussein placed the blame squarely on the government.
“The government still does nothing for us,” Hussein, whose home in the badly hit al-Lamab neighbourhood in south Khartoum was partially destroyed, told Al Jazeera.
“The rainy season is known to come every year, but we don’t see the government seriously prepare for it,” the 56-year-old engineer said.
In failing to “save our lives and belongings”, Hussein believes the country’s new transitional government does not differ from former strongman President Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
Hussein was among the millions in Sudan who risked their lives and protested against al-Bashir’s oppressive 30-year rule that ended last year.
Unemployment, deeply rooted corruption and economic sanctions were the main drivers behind the mass protests that toppled al-Bashir.
What followed was the rise of a fragile power-sharing government that is now working to achieve a democratic transition in Sudan amid acute economic woes.
But to Hussein, these challenges should not have hindered the state’s ability to respond to Sudan’s latest crisis.
When the walls of his house fell on his car parked in the driveway, Hussein reached out to the police and civil defence authorities, but said “no one came to help us”.
“I had no option but to call my neighbours to help me pull my car from under the wall,” he said.
The Sudanese people have relied on a tradition of social mobilisation for immediate relief.
“Nafeer” – an Arabic word meaning “a call to mobilise” – is seeing people turn to each other to seek and offer support. The youth-led initiative brought together thousands of people earlier this month to help each other in battling the crisis.
In Hussein’s neighbourhood, youths gathered to organise people, build structures to assist displaced families and load trucks to distribute food and other items.
Ahmed Abul Motaal, a 22-year-old volunteer, said he joined the initiative because he wanted to participate in the Sudanese tradition after seeing his fellow citizens lose their homes and suffer in the floods.
“We are organising ourselves in different neighbourhoods to help our people,”
Motaal said, adding that the initiative’s objective is to also “fill the gaps that are outside the hands of the government”.
“We saw the houses collapse and the elderly and children [stranded] … We had to do something.”
The Saudi cabinet reiterated on Tuesday the Kingdom’s support for the peace deal signed between Sudan and five armed factions.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz chaired the virtual government meeting from Neom.
The cabinet added that the peace pact was a “significant step forward in achieving the aspirations of the fraternal Sudanese people and their just hopes for peace, development and prosperity.”
The ministers also reviewed the latest local and international developments related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. They covered the measures adopted to ensure the return of all public sector employees in Saudi Arabia to their offices after the lockdown imposed by the outbreak.
Acting Media Minister Dr. Majid al-Qasabi told the Saudi Press Agency that the ministers congratulated students and teachers on the beginning of the new school year. Learning will be temporarily carried out remotely due to the pandemic. He stressed the importance of family members in ensuring that students take their learning seriously while at home.
The ministers addressed Saudi Aramco’s discovery of two oil and gas fields in the al-Jof and northern border regions. They hailed the Energy Ministry and Aramco for their efforts in drilling and production in this field.
The government reviewed the latest regional and international developments, reiterating the Kingdom’s condemnation of the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen for deliberately launching armed drones and ballistic missiles at Saudi civilian targets.
A peace agreement between Sudanese authorities and key armed movements from Darfur could provide a path to national unity, the head of the joint UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said on Monday.
Sudan’s transitional Government initialled the deal alongside the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM/MM), at a ceremony held in neighbouring South Sudan.
Determination, courage and commitment
“I would like to congratulate Sudanese people on this significant step and commend in particular the signatory parties for their determination, courage and commitment to lasting peace in Sudan”, said Jeremiah Mamabolo, the UNAMID Joint Special Representative, who attended the ceremony.
It is expected that the peace agreement will end 17 years of often brutal conflict in Darfur.
Fighting between the forces of former President Omar al-Bashir, backed by allied militia, and various rebel movements, left around 300,000 dead, according to UN estimates, and millions displaced.
President al-Bashir was overthrown in April 2019 following unrest that began in December 2018.
“We hope that this agreement is perceived as the start of a process that includes all in a positive move towards peace, justice and national unity. This includes the full realization of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all the people of Sudan, including Darfuris”, said Mr. Mamabolo.
Praise for South Sudan mediation
At the ceremony, the UNAMID chief conveyed greetings from UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki.
He also applauded the South Sudanese mediation team for facilitating the negotiation process amidst challenges.
Mr. Mamabolo hoped that those parties who remain outside will soon join the peace process to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the Sudanese people and the objectives of the December 2018 Revolution.
“To that end, the United Nations and the African Union remain committed to supporting this process to the very last day of UNAMID’s mandate”, he said.