Sudan ousted two autocrats in three days. Here’s what’s next!

The following is a long article but it gives a good overview of the situation in Sudan at present and includes some news about what led up to the situation. 

Protesters want a civilian transition government. That hasn’t happened.

Sudanese demonstrators rally outside army headquarters in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on April 13 to demand a civilian-led transition to democracy. The military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after almost four months of protests, calling for an end to his nearly 30-year rule. (AP)

By Mai Hassan and
Ahmed Kodouda, April 15

On April 11, the Sudanese military carried out a takeover against President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s dictator for the past 30 years. The military takeover came after months of popular protests, with citizens demanding a democratic transition.

General Awad Ibn Auf, an ally of Bashir’s, became president — but just for a day. On April 12, Ibn Auf bowed out as the protests continued. Lt. General Abdel-Fattah Burhan then assumed power.

Despite ousting two autocrats in two days, it’s unclear whether Sudan will transition to democracy in the near term.

Here are four things to know about the political situation:

1. Popular mobilization against Bashir intensified over the past four months

Last week’s sudden shifts came amid widespread popular dissatisfaction with Bashir — some of it long-standing. The International Criminal Court accused Bashir of overseeing a genocide in Darfur, in Western Sudan, beginning in 2003. He oversaw a war against what is now South Sudan; this ultimately led to South Sudan’s secession in 2011. More recently, the regime has been fighting conflicts in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

These internal wars have had consequences for the country’s economy, including for citizens living outside conflict zones. Fighting wars is expensive. And with South Sudan’s secession, Sudan lost much of its oil revenue and its steady source of foreign reserves. The regime was endemically corrupt as Bashir tried to co-opt rival elites through state resources.

Sudan’s economy seriously worsened over the past year. Without the foreign reserves to pay for food and fuel imports, the regime cut subsidies. On Dec. 19, residents in the provincial town of Atbara protested and burned down the local branch of the ruling party headquarters.

The protests quickly spread to other urban areas, including Khartoum, the capital city. And the protests turned political: Protesters linked the country’s poor economic situation with the government’s poor governance, corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an umbrella group for numerous professional unions, began organizing protests in December 2018 over social media. By January, civil society, including two large political coalitions of civil society groups and opposition parties — the Sudan Call Forces and the Alliance of the National Consensus Forces — signed the Freedom and Change Charter, which demanded the resignation of the regime and a civilian transition government to usher in a new democratic era.

The protests were consistent, but fairly small in scale, from December through early April. But protests intensified on April 6 — the 34th anniversary of the popular movement that removed Sudan’s last autocrat, Jaafar Nimeri. Since then, Khartoum alone has seen hundreds of thousands of protesters each day.

2. One takeover; two transitions

On April 11, the armed forces announced the dissolution of the constitution and Bashir’s arrest over state TV. The takeover leaders also arrested the upper echelons of the regime.

Bashir’s former defense minister, Ibn Auf, appointed himself as interim leader for a two-year (military) transition period to civilian rule. The SPA and the signatories of the Freedom and Change Charter rejected these terms, instead demanding a civilian transition government as specified in the charter.

One day later, Ibn Auf stepped down and Burhan took power. Burhan was an army officer under Bashir but unlike Ibn Auf, Burhan is purportedly popular among rank-and-file army soldiers.

3. International response has been mixed

The reaction from Sudan’s neighbors has varied, largely along regional lines. Some Middle Eastern powers — the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — cautiously welcomed the initial takeover.

Each of these countries is trying to stem the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood domestically and regionally. They have an interest in the continuation of military rule in Sudan at the expense of Sudan’s Islamist movement, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood regionally.

Burhan has ties to these countries — he led Sudan’s troops in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, at the behest of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The ascension of Burhan, then, suggests the consolidation of power by the military faction aligned with this Middle Eastern bloc and the further strengthening of Sudan’s alliance with them. The takeover is thus a rebuke to Qatar and Turkey, whose governments each have links with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and who have an interest in the Sudanese Islamist Movement reasserting itself in politics.

The reaction from the African Union (A.U.) could not be more different. The A.U. called Thursday’s takeover an “[inappropriate] response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people” and called for dialogue between Sudan’s new leader and the opposition.

The condemnation is in line with the A.U.’s anti-takeover norms. Since the 2000 Lome Declaration, the A.U. has rejected extra-constitutional transfers of power on the continent.

That said, the A.U. has recognized takeover plotters after they legalized their rule through a new constitution, as was the case in Zimbabwe in 2018. And with Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi as chairman of the A.U., the organization may legitimize Burhan’s presidency, too.

4. What’s next?
The SPA (Sudanese Professionals Association) and signatories of the Freedom and Change Charter have rejected both of Bashir’s military replacements, calling these transitions simple “facelifts” of Bashir’s regime. They urged civilians to continue protests until there is a real transition to a civilian government.

The demand for a civilian transition, in part, reflects the lessons learned from Egypt’s failed popular uprising during the Arab Spring. There, the military’s control over the transition hampered the ability of Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s democratically elected president after the Arab Spring — to consolidate democracy and curtail the military’s strength, which eventually led to Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s coup in 2013.

On April 13, the SPA and signatories of the Freedom and Change Charter announced their representatives are in dialogue with the current Burhan government about shaping the transition.

[Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify that the initial protests broke out on Dec. 19, 2018, not Dec. 18.
Mai Hassan is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan.
Ahmed Kodouda is a PhD student in political science at George Washington University.]

Sudanese demonstrators rally outside army headquarters in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on April 13 to demand a civilian-led transition to democracy. The military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after almost four months of protests, calling for an end to his nearly 30-year rule. [ Photo credit: Washington Post and AP )

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Sudan protesters demand civilian rule

© Reuters Hier noch gemeinsam: Sudanesische Soldaten und Demonstranten (Archivbild)

Protesters in Sudan have overcome army attempts to disperse their sit-in and resumed their calls for civilian rule. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among those calling for a quick transition to a civilian government.

The organizers of ongoing protests in Sudan demanded the new military council be scrapped and reiterated calls for a civilian government on Monday, as protesters continued a sit-in outside the army headquarters in the country’s capital of Khartoum.

Thousands of demonstrators continued to rally in support of demands for civilian rule, despite an apparent attempt to disperse them following the army’s removal of President Omar al-Bashir last week.

“We want the military council to be dissolved and be replaced by a civilian council having representatives of the army,” said Mohamed Naji, a senior leader of the Sudanese Professionals Association.

The organization also demanded the sacking of the country’s judiciary chief and prosecutor general.

African Union gives army 15 days

The African Union on Monday gave Sudan’s military 15 days to hand over power to a civilian government.

Should the army fail to achieve this, Sudan’s membership in the bloc would be automatically suspended until a return to constitutional order, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said.

The AU said Sudan must hold “free, fair and transparent elections” as soon as possible.

Angela Merkel calls for civilian government

The SPA’s latest demands came as the military council faced increasing public and diplomatic pressure to hand over power to a civilian administration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for “a rapid transfer of power to a civilian transitional government,” in a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

“This must be followed by a credible, inclusive political process that meets the expectations of the Sudanese people with regard to economic and political reforms,” her office said in a statement.

Sissi repeated Egypt’s support for “the brotherly Sudanese people’s will” and said Cairo would “not interfere in its internal affairs”, according to a presidential statement.

Their comments come a day after the Khartoum embassies of Britain, the United States and Norway issued a joint statement calling for “inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule”.

law/dj (AFP, dpa)

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The story continues: On the streets of Khartoum!

Monday 15 April. 2019

KHARTOUM – Sudanese protest organisers have presented demands to the country’s new military rulers, urging the creation of a civilian government, the group spearheading demonstrations said.

Thousands remained encamped outside Khartoum’s army headquarters overnight to keep up the pressure on a military council that took power after ousting veteran leader Omar al-Bashir on Thursday.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered their demands during talks late Saturday, according to a statement by umbrella group the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

“We will continue… our sit-in until all our demands are met,” including the formation of a fully civilian government, one of the alliance’s leaders, Omar al-Degier, said in the statement.

The umbrella group insists that civilian representatives should be accepted onto the military council, and that a fully civilian government should be formed to run day-to-day affairs.

“We surely want our demands to be met, but both sides will have to be flexible to reach a deal,” said a protester who spent the night at the army complex.


On Saturday, the new chief of the military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan vowed to dismantle Bashir’s regime and lifted a night time curfew with immediate effect.

Burhan also pledged that individuals implicated in killing protesters would face justice and that protesters detained under a state of emergency imposed by Bashir during his final weeks in power would be freed.

He took the oath of office on Friday after his predecessor General Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down little more than 24 hours after ousting Bashir.

Tens of thousands of people have massed outside the army headquarters since April 6, initially to urge the armed forces to back their demand that Bashir be removed.

Burhan comes with less baggage from Bashir’s deeply unpopular rule than Ibn Ouf.

But while celebrating the fall of Bashir and then Ibn Ouf — a defence minister and long-time close aide of the deposed president — protesters remain cautious.

Degier said their demands include restructuring the country’s feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), whose chief Salih Ghosh resigned on Saturday.

Rights group Amnesty International on Saturday urged the military council to examine Ghosh’s actions during a crackdown against protesters during the final weeks of Bashir’s rule.

“It is crucial that Sudan’s new authorities investigate Salah Ghosh’s role in the killings of scores of Sudanese protesters over the past four months”, said Amnesty’s regional director Sarah Jackson.

Sudanese demonstrators continue sit-in demanding civilian- led transition to democracy. (Photo credit : Ahmed Mustafa /AFP )


The newly formed 10-member transitional council contains several faces from Bashir’s regime.

On Saturday evening, the new military ruler named NISS deputy head Jalaluddin Sheikh to the council.

He also nominated Mohammad Hamdan Daglo — known as Himeidti — a field commander for the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) counter-insurgency unit, which rights groups have accused of abuses in war-torn Darfur.

One of the protesters taking part in the sit-in outside the army headquarters said he was ambivalent about Himeidti’s appointment.

“We don’t have many options — they (the RSF) have guns, they have money,” said Mohamed, who gave only his first name for security reasons.

“Himeidti was part of the crimes that happened previously but at least now he is on the side of the people,” he added.

Key regional power-brokers Saudi Arabia and the UAE voiced backing for the transitional council.

Burhan’s nomination “reflects the ambitions of the brotherly people of Sudan for security, stability and development”, UAE state news agency WAM said.

Saudi Arabia has promised an aid package, the Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday.

Sudan is part of a UAE and Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen.

That marked a dramatic shift by Khartoum, aligning itself with the Gulf Arab monarchies and dropping close ties with their arch-rival Iran.

The International Criminal Court has longstanding arrest warrants against Bashir for suspected war crimes during the regime’s brutal campaign of repression in Darfur, where a decade-and-a-half of conflict has killed 300,000 people.

Amnesty demanded Saturday the deposed president be handed over to the Court.

But the military council has said it would never extradite Bashir or any other Sudanese citizen.

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Who is General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan?

KHARTOUM – General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the second officer to be sworn in as Sudan’s new military ruler in consecutive days, is a “veteran soldier” largely unknown outside the army.

On Friday, Burhan became chief of a military council that deposed Omar al-Bashir, after the president’s immediate successor General Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down following little more than 24 hours in power.

Protesters, determined to see a civilian government after the end of Bashir’s iron-fisted three decades in power, saw Ibn Ouf as a regime insider and a close aide of the toppled leader.

Ibn Ouf’s exit has catapulted Burhan from the shadows to the de facto head of the country.

“Burhan is a high ranking officer within the armed forces, but basically he’s a veteran soldier,” said an army officer, who did not want to be named.

“He’s never been in the limelight like Ibn Ouf or General Kamal Abdelmarouf,” the officer said, referring to the army’s former chief of staff.

“Burhan doesn’t have any political leanings, he is a professional soldier,” an anonymous officer is quoted as saying.

But as de facto head of the country, he will not be able to escape making difficult political decisions.

Burhan had a stint as Sudan’s defence attache to Beijing.

On Friday, hours before he was named as Sudan’s new military ruler, he was seen talking to protesters who have camped outside the army headquarters since 6 April.

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Awad Ibn Ouf: Sudan interim leader steps down one day after taking power in military coup

Saturday 13 April 2019 08:50, UK

Awad Ibn Ouf: Sudan interim leader steps down one day after taking power in military coup

The army ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who is charged with alleged genocide in Darfur, where up to 300,000 people died.

The leader of Sudan’s transitional government is stepping down just a day after the country’s military seized power.

Defence minister General Awad Ibn Ouf named General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, general inspector of the armed forces, as his successor as head of the transitional council.

Mr Ibn Ouf said: “I, the head of the military council, announce I am giving up the post,” explaining he took the decision to preserve the unity of the armed forces.

Earlier, an army spokesman said it will not extradite deposed president Omar al-Bashir to The Hague to face war crimes charges, as it would be “an ugly mark on Sudan”.

In a wide-ranging news conference in the capital Khartoum, Colonel General Omar Zein Abedeen defended Thursday’s ousting of Mr al-Bashir, who had ruled the north African country for 30 years.

“This was not a coup”, but a “tool of change,” he said.

Mr al-Bashir, 75, is facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in The Hague over alleged genocide for his campaign against insurgents in Darfur.

Thousands of protesters joined a sit-in near the military headquarters on Friday


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Sudan: From the fat into the fire?

It was the man named by President Omar al-Bashir as his deputy just six weeks ago who broke the news to the Sudanese people of the longtime ruler’s removal.

Dressed in army fatigues, General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf declared on Thursday that the 75-year-old had been overthrown and arrested following months of nationwide protests against his three-decade rule.

In his address on state TV, Ibn Auf also said a military council would run the country for two years and announced the suspension of the constitution and the introduction of a month-long overnight curfew.

The statement by Ibn Auf, who is also Sudan’s defence minister, was rejected by the demonstrators, who said the military takeover did not represent the democratic outcome they had been seeking.

Protesters vowed to keep taking to the streets, defying a military-imposed curfew just as Ibn Auf was sworn in as chief of Sudan’s new ruling council.

Who is Ibn Auf?

A career soldier, Ibn Auf has long been a senior figure in Sudan’s military establishment. He has previously served as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and was head of military intelligence and security during the bloody conflict in the Darfur region, which began in 2003.

The war claimed more than 300,000 lives, according to the United Nations.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court in 2009 indicted al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, while Ibn Auf himself was sanctioned by the United States for supporting and managing militias accused of carrying out genocide in the conflict.

The US Treasury Department in 2007 blocked Ibn Auf’s assets, along with two other Sudanese officials, for their role in “fomenting violence and human rights abuses in Darfur.”

Following his retirement from the army in 2010, as part of an institutional shake-up, Ibn Auf took a diplomatic role at the ministry of foreign affairs.
He spent time in diplomatic posts in Egypt and Oman, before returning to the heart of the Khartoum political establishment in 2015, when he was appointed by al-Bashir as defence minister.

In early February, following months of massive, nationwide street demonstrations against al-Bashir’s government, Ibn Auf adopted a sympathetic tone towards those on the streets, noting the young people involved in the protests had “reasonable ambition”.

On February 23, as protests continued across Sudan, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolving the country’s central and state governments and appointing a series of military figures as state governors. As part of the wider measures, Ibn Auf was appointed a first vice president, while also retaining his defence portfolio.

Within hours of Ibn Auf’s address to the nation, protesters denounced the military’s move as a “regime coup” and repeated their demand for a civilian council to head the transition.

“Change will not happen with Bashir’s entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup,” Alaa Salah, a prominent member of the protest movement, said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Ahmed Soliman, Africa Fellow at Chatham House, said Ibn Auf was “very much a member of the old guard.”

“[He is] among the political leaders who have supported president al-Bashir for a long time and for his whole army career. It’s difficult to see this as a transition moving to a new stage of inclusive government.”

Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, a Sudan researcher at Yale University, said that despite al-Bashir’s removal, power remained in the hands of his associates.
“The regime is the same as it was yesterday, with the exception of a few figures close to al-Bashir who have been detained,” he told Al Jazeera.

Joy turns to anger as Sudan protesters reject ‘regime coup’

For its part, the African Union said the military takeover was “not the appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people” while Ibn Auf’s controversial past also came under scrutiny.
“The general who has taken over in this palace coup, Awad Ibn Auf, has been sanctioned by the United States for orchestrating war crimes in Darfur, just as the just-deposed Omar al-Bashir has been,” said Hollywood actor George Clooney, a longtime human rights campaigner in Sudan, calling on the international community to ensure the transitional leadership in Sudan be inclusive and negotiated.

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Breaking : Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is believed to have been relieved of his duties

Earlier today:

Sudan: Army says it will make ‘important announcement’
President Bashir steps down and consultations under way to set up transitional council, government sources tell Reuters.
Army tanks rolled onto the streets of Khartoum and the fate of President Omar al-Bashir was uncertain with military and government sources saying that the embattled leader had been relieved of his duties.

The Sudanese army is expected to make “an important announcement”, state media said on Thursday, after months of protests against Bashir.
“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” a television anchor said, without giving further details.

Thousands of people poured onto the streets of the capital as they waited hours for the announcement.

At least two army tanks, one with jubilant demonstrators on top, moved through the capital.

Witnesses reported gunfire near the military headquarters that have been at the centre of six days of a defiant sit-in.

The military’s headquarters also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.

The national intelligence and security service said on Thursday all political prisoners have been released, the country’s state news agency reported.
The unrest erupted in December when demonstrations broke out over a rise in bread prices. They have grown to become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s 30-year rule.

Crowds of demonstrators have spent five nights thronging the sprawling complex, singing and dancing to revolutionary songs.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum said there was a heavy security presence on the city’s main roads.

“There are a lot of military trucks around the capital and around the main streets of the city. Most roads have been blocked especially those leading to the army HQ. There are a few roads opened for the protesters who have been participating in the sit-in,” Morgan said.

“People are extremely happy even before the army made any announcement. People are celebrating and pouring into the sit-in area. Protesters are saying they are very confident that Bashir will resign,” Morgan added.

The group spearheading the nationwide demonstrations urged residents of the capital to mass outside army headquarters.

“We call on our people from across the Khartoum capital and the region around to immediately go to the sit-in area and not leave from there until our next statement is issued,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said.
The group also said they will not accept a military government to succeed President Bashir.

Thursday marked the sixth day of a defiant sit-in outside the military’s headquarters [Mohammed Amin/Al Jazeera]

Protesters at the sit-in told Al Jazeera they feel their calls have been heard.
“We finally win this battle, we struggled a lot and we suffered a lot but everything suppose to have an end,” 45-year-old tea seller Fathia Imam told Jazeera at the square of the sit-in.

Abdul Galil Ahmed, a 28-year-old activist, said he is worried that some of President Bashir’s close allies could remain in office.

“We are worried about the future and the fate of our uprising because we doubt the regime would be toppled as [a] whole,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera.
Witnesses said army soldiers arrested two snipers near the military headquarters on Thursday.

Observers say although it remains unclear what the armed forces will announce, it appears as though the army has decided to support the protesters.

Mahjoob Zweiri, professor of Middle East history at Qatar University told Al Jazeera: “During the past 10 days, it was obvious that there was a shift in the movement in Sudan. This shift started with the military changing its own course towards the demands of the people.

“Over the last 24 hours, the demands and the number of participants [in the protests] increased, putting pressure on the military institution as a whole and making the army feel the need to take action.”

Ahmed Soliman, a researcher at the Africa Programme at Chatham House told Al Jazeera that while he expects the army to announce the end of Bashir’s 30-year-rule within the next few hours, fears remain that the movement may be coopted by the security forces or internal factions within the armed forces.

“Bashir has spent the last 30 years working to insulate his regime and there is a deep web we’ve seen unravel over the past few months. He [Bashir] has created multiple security forces, militias and has an extremely powerful intelligence and security service which we’ve seen trying to infiltrate these mass protests.”

“We will have a clearer indication of what will happen when the statement is made.”

The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) since they began camping outside the complex on April 6, protest organisers say.
But since Tuesday night they have not faced any “threat” from security agents, said a protester who requested anonymity for security reasons.

That came after 11 people, including six members of the security forces, were killed on Tuesday during demonstrations in the capital, government spokesman Hassan Ismail told the official SUNA news agency.
Government officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.

“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, referring to an ancient name for Sudan, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside the army headquarters.

Earlier this week, the United States, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.

“The time has come for the Sudanese authorities to respond to these popular demands in a serious” way, the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.

“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition.”

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What’s next for Sudan?

The following is the latest news from Khartoum following an announcement that the Army will make a statement soon . Protesters have been asked to wait patiently for that announcement. Here is what Aljazeera has to say:

“The Sudanese army is expected to make “an important announcement”, state media said on Thursday, after months of protests against longtime President Omar al-Bashir.

“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” a television anchor said, without giving further details.

The protests, which erupted in December, have become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s three decades of rule.

Thursday marked the sixth day of a defiant sit-in outside the military’s headquarters, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defense ministry.

Crowds of demonstrators have spent five nights thronging the sprawling complex, singing and dancing to revolutionary songs.

Will Sudan’s protesters agree to negotiate with Omar al-Bashir?
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reporting from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum said there was a heavy security presence on the city’s main roads.

“There are a lot of military trucks around the capital and around the main streets of the city. Most roads have been blocked especially those leading to the army HQ. There are a few roads opened for the protesters who have been participating in the sit-in,” Morgan said.

“People are extremely happy even before the army made any announcement. People are celebrating and pouring in to the sit-in area. Protesters are saying they are very confident that Bashir will resign,” Morgan added.

The group spearheading the nationwide demonstrations urged residents of the capital to mass outside army headquarters.

“We call on our people from across the Khartoum capital and the region around to immediately go to the sit-in area and not leave from there until our next statement is issued,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said.

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South Sudan urged to end death penalty as evidence shows children among dead

Rise in state-sanctioned executions condemned by Amnesty International as ‘outdated and inhuman’
A prison guard walks along a perimeter wall at the central prison in Rumbek, in South Sudan’s Lakes state. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Children are among those being executed in South Sudan, in an “extremely disturbing” escalation of the state’s use of the death penalty, according to Amnesty International.

This year, seven people, including one child, were hanged, the highest number since the county gained independence in 2011 , according to evidence provided to Amnesty by legal professionals and government officials.

In 2017, two of the four people executed were children at the time of their conviction, the organisation said.

Among the 342 people currently on death row – more than double the number recorded in 2011 – are a secondary school pupil, who was sentenced to death when he was 15, and a breastfeeding mother. The country’s lack of transparency on its use of the death penalty meant the figures were likely to be underestimated, Amnesty said.

The rise in executions is happening at a time when the world is moving away from death sentences.

Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s east Africa director, said: “It is extremely disturbing that the world’s youngest nation has embraced this outdated, inhuman practice and is executing people, even children, at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning this abhorrent punishment.

“The president of South Sudan must stop signing execution orders and end this obvious violation of the right to life.”

More than 100 countries, out of 195 globally, have abolished the death penalty. South Sudan and Somalia were the only countries in the region that carried out judicial executions in 2017.

The use of the death sentence or penalty against a person under 18 at the time a crime was committed is a breach of the South Sudanese 2011 transitional constitution, in addition to international human rights laws and standards. The execution of a mother caring for a young child would also contravene South Sudanese law and international laws and standards.

Philip Deng* was found guilty of murder when he was 15, following a trial in which he did not have any legal representation. Deng claims the crime was an accident.

Deng, who will turn 17 in December, said: “Before the accident, I was in secondary school. I was a runner, a very good one, and I was also a singer of gospel and earthly songs … My own aim was to study and do things that can help others. My hope is to be out and to continue with my school,” he said.

Deng, who said he told the judge he was 15, was sentenced to death by hanging on 14 November 2017. He finally gained access to a lawyer, who appealed against the court’s decision. He was transferred from Torit state prison to Juba State central prison in September and is awaiting his appeal.

Since independence, 140 people have been sentenced to death and at least 32 executed. The country, which allows the death penalty for crimes including murder, terrorism, drug trafficking and treason, has carried out executions every year since it acquired independence, except for 2014, when Amnesty did not record any.

An inmate with shackles around his ankles skips over an open trench at Rumbek’s central prison in South Sudan. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

This year’s spate of executions appears to have been prompted by a directive by the director-general of South Sudan’s national prison service on 26 April, in which all death row prisoners held at county and state prisons were ordered to be moved to two of the country’s most notorious prisons – Wau central prison and Juba central prison.

South Sudan, which has been embroiled in a civil war between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups since 2013, signed a peace accord in October.

Before a person sentenced to death can be executed, the supreme court and the president must confirm the death sentence.

In all, 23 countries carried out 993 executions in 2017, with nearly 22,000 people on death row; worldwide, there was a small drop in the number of executions carried out.

In 2017, there was a significant decrease in death sentences imposed across Sub-Saharan Africa.

* Name changed to protect identity

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At scene of South Sudan mass rape, ‘no one could hear me’


n this photo taken Friday, Dec. 7, 2018, an 18-year-old woman recounts the day in early November when she and a friend were bound, dragged into the bush and raped by four men with guns, as she sits in a hospital in Nhialdu, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)










NHIALDIU — Wrapping an arm around her stomach, the young woman hung her head and recounted the day in early November when she and a friend were bound, dragged into the bush and raped by four men with guns.

“My body hasn’t been the same since,” the 18-year-old said. The men attacked during an hours-long walk home to the South Sudan village of Nhialdiu.

“I was crying and screaming but I was so far from the village that no one could hear me,” she told The Associated Press, which doesn’t identify survivors of sexual assault.

In an exclusive look at the aftermath, the AP joined a U.N. peacekeeping patrol where the attacks occurred as humanitarians, rights groups and South Sudan’s government scrambled to find out more.

Rape has been used widely as a weapon in South Sudan. Even after a peace deal was signed in September to end a five-year civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people, humanitarians have warned of higher rates of sexual assault as growing numbers of desperate people try to reach aid.

While some aid groups have quietly questioned whether all 125 people in the Doctors With Borders report were raped, they do not dispute that the problem has become grave.

The 18-year-old was not included in that report, and the real toll of sexual assault is not known.

Joining the U.N. patrol on Friday, the AP traveled the potholed road where the recent assaults took place. Shrouded by trees and elephant grass, some stretches provide cover for perpetrators to lurk.

Several local women said the violence is escalating.

Nyalgwon Mol Moon said she was held at gunpoint last month while two men in civilian clothes, their faces covered, stole her clothes, her shoes and the milk she meant to sell at market. Standing beside the road, pointing to her borrowed, oversized sneakers, she said she now tries to take alternative routes on her weekly walks to Bentiu.

She has no other choice. Food in Nhialdiu and nearby villages is scarce. Most people could not cultivate last season because of fighting and too much rain. Many rely on monthly aid from the U.N.’s World Food Program.

That means a walk of almost 40 kilometers (24 miles) to Bentiu town. Unable to carry the heavy rations back in one trip, most women leave some behind with relatives and make several journeys throughout the month.

Some said they make the 11-hour trek at least six times.

Alarmed by the sexual assaults, the World Food Program said it is prepared to bring distribution points closer to communities. The U.N. is now clearing the road from Bentiu to Nhialdiu of debris to make access easier.

No one has taken responsibility for the wave of assaults that the U.N. and African Union have condemned as “abhorrent” and “predatory.”

South Sudan’s government has acknowledged the assaults occurred in areas it controls, on the road between Nhialdiu and Bentiu and in surrounding villages. But it blames them on “unregulated youth” who fought alongside warring factions before the peace deal, Laraka Machar Turoal, deputy governor of Northern Liech state that was once part of Unity, told the AP.

Youth who were never officially integrated with armed groups have been left idle, guns in hand, to take what they want by force, Turoal said.

South Sudan’s government has called on all sides to demobilize the youth. It said it has deployed troops to areas in Unity state suspected of harboring criminals.

And yet the army in Nhialdiu has not detained anyone in the assaults and denies responsibility for finding the perpetrators, said John Dor, army commander for the area. He said they took place far from town, outside his jurisdiction.

But several local people said they knew of attacks in villages less than 15 kilometers from the army base. Some who were attacked at gunpoint said they believe the armed youth are affiliated with government troops. The government has done nothing so far to stop the violence, one woman explained.

The U.N., which has increased patrols, is pushing South Sudan’s government to take more responsibility. The U.N. Security Council in a statement on Saturday noted its willingness to impose sanctions on those who threaten the peace, including by sexual violence.

“They’re obliged to make sure everyone’s protected … it’s not enough just to sit in one place and not be involved,” said Paul Adejoh Ebikwo, the U.N. mission’s senior civil affairs officer in Bentiu.

Unity state was one of the hardest-hit areas in the civil war, and Bentiu has changed hands several times. Government and opposition forces remain at odds, even as factions across the country try to reconcile. A meeting on Thursday to build trust was canceled because the parties couldn’t agree on a place to meet, said the independent monitoring group charged with overseeing the peace deal’s implementation.

Meanwhile, many women and girls are terrified.

Cautiously peering through the trees, several hesitantly emerged from the bush, inching toward the side of the road.

“We’re walking here because we’re scared of coming on the main path,” said Nyachieng Gatman. Three days ago, she said, she met a breast-feeding mother and young girl who had been raped in a nearby town.

Standing beside her, 11-year Anchankual Dood lowered her heavy bag of grain and gulped from a bottle of water.

“It’s a long distance to go and come from Bentiu,” the girl said. “But we do it because we need food and because we’re suffering.”


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