JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN – The SPLM-North (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North) faction based in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains suspended peace talks in Juba with Khartoum officials after military forces allegedly bombed several areas in the region and killed a sheik on Tuesday. The group’s leader said the sustained attack shows the Sudanese government’s failure to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement the parties signed last month.
Amar Amoua, SPLM-North’s Secretary General and spokesperson for the group, told reporters in Juba Wednesday his group will not take part in any peace talks until there is a full investigation into the attack. For the last 10 days, Amoua said Sudanese government forces bombarded several areas of the Nuba Mountains.
Amoua said SPLM-North will not return to the bargaining table until their demands are met.
“Our coming back to negotiate on table is bound by government decision to clear all these things. The government should withdraw its forces and stop from gaining new ground by occupying new areas. We will not allow that and also we need the government to release immediately the traders whom they have arrested with all their property and hand them to SPLM/N authorities in Nuba Mountains,” Amoua told South Sudan in Focus.
Amoua said Tuesday’s attack included 25 armed Land Cruisers that attacked civilians in Kor Waral, a rebel-controlled area of the Nuba Mountains. He said a local chief named Sheik Mahamed Afdal Fadil and one soldier were killed in the area, while at least 10 people are missing.
“We are asking the government also to make thorough investigations into the chief, who is been assassinated because he rejected passing of nomads in that new road, which passes through farm lands,” Amoua told VOA.
The Sudanese government downplayed the accusations, blaming the attack on cattle herders.
Mohammed Hassan Eltaishi, a spokesman representing the transitional Sudanese government delegation at the peace talks in Juba, told reporters Tuesday that the government has full knowledge of what he referred to as the “incident,” and indicated military leaders were not involved in the attack.
“The incident happened at the context of local inhabitants who happen to be herders attacking local merchants. Some fell victim and got captured and local goods were confiscated. The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” said Eltaishi.
It is particularly troublesome that “the event” took place at a time when people were entering peace talks, said Eltaishi, adding, “the country is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”
Eltaishi vowed the government would investigate the incident and hold those responsible accountable.
Tutkew Gatluak, South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s security advisor and a chief mediator in the talks, called on Sudanese authorities to quickly launch an investigation.
“We have received a report from the SPLM-North, led by Alhilu, because there is an incident that happened in (the) Nuba Mountains. It is an unfortunate incident. It is an environment of peace. We don’t want any situation from both parties that interrupts the peace process,” said Gatluak.
Talks between the Sudan government and an alliance of more than a dozen rebel groups headed by SPLM-North chairperson Abdelaziz Adam Alhilu was to begin on Wednesday, according to mediators. The alliance includes the rebel group Sudanese Revolutionary Front.
Before the announcement of the SPLM-N’s refusal to negotiate, mediators and other observers including the African Union had already convened at Juba’s Pyramid Hotel, the venue of the talks.
Jeremiah Kingsley, the African Union ambassador to South Sudan, offered his assurances of support to regional leaders for the Sudan talks.
“We are grateful that the parties have agreed to come here to begin talking. It is not going to be easy; we can only call up on them to fine each other. It is in the interest the Sudanese people who have suffered a great deal. They should put the interest of the people first,” Kingsley told South Sudan in Focus.
On Monday, Alhilu said the African Union held 22 rounds of peace talks between the Sudanese government and the rebels but the two sides had failed to address the root causes of the problem.
Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-16 01:13:25|Editor: Mu Xuequan
KHARTOUM, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) — The European Union (EU) on Tuesday reiterated keenness to be key partner to the transitional authorities in Sudan.
Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, on Tuesday received Ambassador Robert van den Dool who presented his credentials as the new Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Sudan.
“The European Union and its member states are very keen on being a key partner for the transitional authorities,” said Dool in a statement.
The EU ambassador further welcomed the appointment of the government with four female ministers and the first female chief of justice in Africa as “important signals that the new Sudanese government is making important efforts towards equal rights for men and women.”
One year on from the signing of the peace agreement, millions of South Sudanese remain displaced as the country continues to face a humanitarian crisis and people fear that peace may not last, according to a new report published today.
Women, who lead the vast majority of displaced households, may be especially vulnerable, including facing the threat of sexual violence. While some women have begun returning to South Sudan, many are not going back to their homes but seeking a safer and better place to live.
The report, No Simple Solutions: Women, Displacement and Durable Solutions in South Sudan, is by Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Care Foundation, Danish Refugee Council, and South Sudanese organizations, Nile Hope and Titi Foundation. It highlights the experiences of women in transit and the conditions they need in order to return home.
After five years of brutal conflict, more than seven million South Sudanese – over half the country’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed and it will take years for essential infrastructure and services to recover.
The conflict created the largest displacement crisis in Africa with over 4.3 million people forced to flee their homes; 1.8 million people are internally displaced and there are 2.3 million refugees in the region.
Elysia Buchanan, South Sudan policy lead, Oxfam said: “Since the signing of the revitalized peace deal, armed clashes between parties have reduced, bringing tentative hope to many. But because of the slow implementation of the deal, many women told us they are still not sure if lasting peace is at hand.”
The civil war also fueled the rise of sexual violence, including rape as a weapon of war, and the abduction of women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery.
With the sheer scale of the crisis, and endemic levels of sexual and gender-based violence, a South Sudanese woman activist quoted in the report warned humanitarian agencies against rushing to support people to return home. “This would be like throwing people from one frying pan to another. Humanitarian actors should take things slow, until refugees and internally displaced people can move themselves.”
Due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, people returning from neighboring countries often find themselves in more difficult conditions than when they were displaced, including struggling to find somewhere to live.
Connolly Butterfield, Protection and Gender Specialist of NRC, said: “Time and again, women spoke to us of the challenges they face in returning to their homes. They make the journey back, only to find that their houses and properties were completely destroyed, or had already been occupied by strangers, sometimes soldiers. Some of the women said that if they try to reclaim their properties, they have no means of support. They are more likely to be threatened or exposed to physical or sexual assault.”
Because the context still poses risks, all actors should take a long-term, community-driven vision around supporting the conditions required to deliver a lasting end to the displacement crisis, to mitigate the risk of people falling into an endless cycle of movement. It is estimated some 60 percent of displaced South Sudanese have been displaced more than once, and one in 10 have been displaced more than five times.
Buchanan said: “Helping people return to their homes and rebuild their lives is our goal. But by ignoring or downplaying the issues that make returning dangerous, or not ensuring people have adequate information on what they are coming home to, humanitarian agencies could inadvertently endanger people or make their lives worse.
The international community must only support the return of internally displaced people if conditions are safe and dignified, and the decision to return is informed and voluntary. The humanitarian response must be sensitive to the needs of women and girls, taking into consideration the country’s harmful gender norms.
Martha Nyakueka, Gender and Protection Coordinatior of the national NGO Nile Hope, said: “After years of conflict, it will take time for the country to recover. The warring parties who signed the peace deal must ensure that the agreement leads to lasting changes on the ground, not just in terms of security, but also in terms of improving the lives of the South Sudanese people.”
Four US diplomats on Wednesday opened accounts at a Sudanese bank for the first time in decades, as Khartoum seeks to draw international businesses back to the country to help revive the ailing economy.
In October 2017, the United States lifted its decades-old trade embargo on Sudan. But the move has so far failed to attract foreign investments, seen as vital to revive Sudan’s economy hit hard by foreign currency shortages.
In December 2018 an economic crisis sparked a nationwide protest movement. The uprising eventually led to the ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir in April.
“We lifted economic sanctions in 2017 and we want to show that Sudan is open for business, that banks, international banks and businesses are welcome back here,” Ellen Thorburn, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Khartoum told AFP after she opened her account at a branch of the Bank of Khartoum.
“The timing seemed right now with the civilian led transitional government and the changes that they are enacting,” Thorburn said.
She also cited the “dramatic changes” Sudan has witnessed this year as an incentive.
With the ouster of Bashir, Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian-military body, called the sovereign council, which is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Washington has kept Sudan in its “state sponsors of terrorism list” along with Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Sudanese officials say this is still keeping international businesses away.
Sudan announced Wednesday a “permanent ceasefire” in the country’s war zones even as a key rebel group threatened to pull out of peace talks, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.
Juba has been hosting talks between new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government and delegates from two umbrella groups of rebels who fought now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan states.
The talks were launched on Monday, but the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) told journalists it would pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains.
The group said that for the past 10 days government forces had kept up attacks on its territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.
Late on Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a permanent ceasefire in the three conflict zones.
“General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has announced a permanent ceasefire to show that the government is committed to peace,” the sovereign council said in a statement.
“The ceasefire is valid from the signing of this declaration.”
An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.
A joint civilian-military sovereign council is now ruling Sudan and is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.
A new transitional government is in place to carry out the daily affairs of the country and has been leading the peace talks in South Sudan’s capital with the rebel groups.
Bloodshed in the three states has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced, in turn severely impacting the northeast African country’s economy. Last Update: Thursday, 17 October 2019 KSA 04:19 – GMT 01:19
KHARTOUM, SUDAN – Sudanese citizens have largely embraced the sovereign council’s move to appoint Nemat Abdallah as Sudan’s first female chief justice, a first in the Arab world.
Nemat Abdallah Mohammed Khair’s appointment is monumental not only for Sudan but for all of Africa. She is only the fifth female justice named in Africa, after Ghana, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Lesotho.
Wafa Adam, who works for the local non-governmental organization Siha, which advocates for women’s rights in Sudan, is elated that a woman now holds a top position in the country, something that was unthinkable for decades under former President Omar al-Bashir.
“I am very excited about that and she is going to support the women and she is going to advocate for women and laws. We expect her to support the women movements and the women,” Adam told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
Adam said Sudan is one of three Muslim countries that has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She expects Abdallah to ratify CEDAW and to work to reform Sudanese local laws that oppress women.
“For example, public order law, family law and criminal law and many laws that are not supporting women’s rights, we request her to advocate for reforming those laws,” Adam told VOA.
Israa Dawood, a Sudanese youth who took part in the protests that led to Bashir’s ouster, said Abdallah’s appointment is historic.
“This is a huge milestone for Sudan and now we are depending on the judiciary so much, so that atrocities committed during the revolution’s period would be brought to book. Abdallah has played a significant role during the revolution and everybody has pushed for her appointment,” Dawood told South Sudan in Focus.
Haj Hamad, a political science lecturer at Khartoum University, said Abdallah’s appointment as chief justice proves that the overwhelming number of Sudanese trust women’s leadership skills.
“This is a major breakthrough from earlier policies of a different regime in the country, that providing a reprisal step of women professionals and leaders to occupy such kind of very high ranking and influential post,” Hamad said.
Abdallah was initially nominated as chief justice soon after military leaders and the opposition signed a power-sharing agreement in late August, but Sudan’s new executive body, the sovereign council, instead named a man to the post. Public protests led the council to reverse course and appoint her as chief justice on October 10.
Hamad said Abdallah will likely face numerous obstacles during Sudan’s three-year transitional government, but added that the new chief justice will likely stand firm to defend the country’s constitutional declaration and all laws that govern the country.
According to the constitutional document signed on August 17, 2019, the chief justice names the judiciary council.
In addition, the chief justice heads the judiciary and serves as president of the nation’s Supreme Court.
CAIRO – Sudan’s new transitional government met with rebel leaders on Monday, kicking off peace talks aimed at ending the country’s yearslong civil wars.
The peace initiative was built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan’s army and its pro-democracy movement. That deal was reached after the overthrow of longtime autocrat President Omar al-Bashir in April. The transitional authorities have six months to make peace with the rebels, according to the agreement.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is hosting the talks in its capital, Juba, where some rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a roadmap for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place.
South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011 after decades of civil war. But in the 2000s, Sudan was most known for al-Bashir’s brutal repression of an uprising in the western Darfur region.
Achieving peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. It has counted on ending the wars with rebels in order to revive the country’s battered economy through slashing the military spending, which takes up much of the national budget.
Sudanese authorities have introduced good-will signals. They dismissed death sentences against eight rebel leaders and released more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
The government delegation, led by Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, a member of the Sudan’s sovereign council, arrived in Juba late Sunday. Rebel leaders arrived earlier this month.
Rebel leader Malik Agar of the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of Darfur rebel groups, told The Associated Press that they would start “the official opening” of the talks Monday in Juba.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, also arrived in Juba to attend the opening session, along with other African leaders including Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, according to the official SUNA news agency.
Ahmed said the start of the negotiations was a “demonstration of the will for peace and reconciliation.” He encouraged “all stakeholders to reach a consensus and redirect their focus to building an inclusive and prosperous Sudan,” his office said.
Ethiopia and the African Union mediated the power-sharing agreement in August which ended months of violence and faltering talks between Sudan’s generals and protesters following the uprising against al-Bashir.
On Sunday, Sudan’s newly appointed top judicial officials were sworn in before Burhan.
Neamat Kheir, a veteran female judge, took the oath as chief of the judiciary. She’s the first woman to rise to Sudan’s highest judicial post. Taj al-Ser al-Hebr, a lawyer, was sworn in as the country’s public prosecutor.
Last month, thousands of Sudanese took to the streets demanding the two original appointees be sacked. Those two had been chosen by the military council that ruled Sudan after ousting al-Bashir.
Protesters insisted that independent judges be appointed before prosecuting members of the old regime, as well as those responsible for a deadly crackdown on protesters in June.
Unlike many judges, Kheir was not known to compromise her integrity to serve the interests of al-Bashir’s government. However, she was widely criticized for not having supported the Sudanese uprising since its inception.
The world watched earlier this year as the people of Sudan rose up to demand the ouster of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, an authoritarian who had presided over three decades of brutal rule. A protest over bread prices quickly blossomed into a full-throated demand for civilian government. On April 11, after nearly four months of demonstrations, the military announced it had arrested Mr. al-Bashir, finally ending his reign.
Sudanese women were at the forefront of this movement for democracy and change, having endured years of marginalization, harassment and sexual violence. By some estimates, they made up as many as two-thirds of the protesters. A photo of the young protester Alaa Salah leading a chant against the regime became a viral sensation, illustrating the revolutionary power of the country’s women.
The protest movement that ousted Mr. al-Bashir is yet another example of African women’s increasing participation in the political process, whether as activists or legislators. As of July 2019, four of the world’s top 15 countries with the highest percentage of female lawmakers in their lower or single houses of parliament are in Africa. Thirteen African nations have parliaments with female membership at 30 percent or higher.
Creating inclusive democracies takes time, however. And inclusion cannot occur without strong democratic institutions and basic respect for the rule of law, both of which have long been absent in Sudan.
The months between Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in April and the August signing of a transitional power-sharing agreement between Sudan’s ruling military council and the pro-democracy opposition were marked by widespread protests and violence. On June 3, a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Response Forces attacked pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, as they demanded an end to the military-led government that took power after Mr. al-Bashir’s arrest. A doctors’ group associated with the opposition estimated that 127 people were killed and approximately 70 raped in the attack. The following month, several student demonstrators were shot and killed by security forces in the city of El-Obeid.
As Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born businessman and philanthropist, has written, “Intimidation, harassment and violence have no place in a democracy.” How right he is.
But in order for democracies to be safe, women must have power. That means more than just the right to vote; women need real decision-making authority. Their voices must be heard on the streets and in all branches of government.
Electing more women to office normalizes the idea that women and other marginalized groups can wield power effectively. It also changes the government’s priorities and makes it function better over all. Various studies have shown that women tend to be less autocratic and to work more collaboratively. Research also suggests that governments with more women in office are more likely to spend money on health care and education and to advance women’s rights.
A 2017 study by the Brookings Institution found that gender equality and democracy strengthen each other. When there is greater equality in governance, a nation’s “relative state of peace” is increased, security is improved and there is less aggression toward other countries. In turn, when democracy is stronger, women are less likely to suffer violence and enjoy greater political and economic equality.
How can we set this virtuous cycle of inclusion and democracy in motion? The question must be asked, not only in Sudan as the country works to build a stable civilian government, but also all across the world, as women struggle for equality and representation.
I humbly offer three suggestions.
First, quotas must be set for female representation at all levels of government. Research has shown that gender quotas, although not a perfect system, do help women overcome the cultural, economic and electoral barriers that keep them from holding elected office. Such quotas can later be phased out, based on the recognition that women, once in office, will begin to share in the benefits normally granted to men.
Mandated quotas of various kinds have gained traction in Africa and around the world in recent years. For example, a constitutional requirement in Rwanda — the world’s leader in terms of female representation in Parliament — stipulates that women must account for at least 30 percent of all decision-making organizations in government.
In the case of Sudan, which recently embarked on a three-year transition toward democracy after months of unrest, women must have a large seat at the negotiating table and play an active role in the peace process. In a hopeful sign, Sudan’s new cabinet includes the country’s first female foreign minister, Asma Mohamed Abdalla.
Second, the international community must be more responsive in advocating for stronger democratic institutions. Instead of becoming involved only after tragedy occurs, as happened in Sudan, international actors and institutions must learn to detect the warning signs of impending violence and lend support by pressing for open dialogue, ensuring that women have the right to speak up. In this way, nations can make the transition to democracy without resorting to mass protests and bloodshed.
Third, we must support girls in Africa and around the world, by providing them with education, health care and economic empowerment. We also need to think seriously about leadership training, whether that means providing assistance to the young women who are bold enough to enter politics or creating networking platforms that empower women across cultures and continents.
Sudan’s democratic revolution would not have been possible without the efforts of women and girls. I believe that, in time, Sudanese women will enjoy the full fruits of democracy. Until then, we must stand with them, in our words and deeds.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the former president of Liberia (2006-2018) and a joint recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
This is an article from World Review: The State of Democracy, a special section that examines global policy and affairs through the perspectives of thought leaders and commentators.
The women of Minbar-Shat just wanted to snoop on their boyfriends. They helped topple a dictator instead.
It all started in 2015 with a frantic message from a woman in Sudan who was having cold feet ten days before her wedding. The woman had a nagging feeling her husband-to-be was cheating on her, and she was desperate to find out the truth before she went through with the marriage. She decided to reach out to her friend Rania Omer, who had won a lottery visa to become a U.S. citizen five years earlier. Now Omer was 24 and studying at a college in Nebraska, but she still fancied herself an anti-matchmaker among her close-knit community back home in Khartoum. The friend wanted Omer’s help. Would she mind posting a photo of the potential husband to Facebook to see if other women could dig up information on him?
A few hours later, Omer had her answer: one commenter posted to say she was his wife. “His wife showed up and said please delete this picture and I was like, ‘Oh my!” said Omer in a phone interview with ELLE.com.
As more women began coming to Omer for information on men they knew, she decided to start a Facebook group called Minbar-Shat as a community of female “cheater detectives” who would work to police men’s behavior. Within a week, Omer said, the group’s membership grew to more than 10,000. That’s when she realized there was something more to Minbar-Shat than catching cheaters.
When Omer came to the U.S. from Sudan in 2010, her home country had been ruled by dictator Omar Al-Bashir for 21 years, more than the average age of the population. Most Sudanese citizens spent their lifetime under his rule, and many spent their youth protesting it. In July 2010, Bashir became the first head of state to receive an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, due to his involvement in wiping out non-Arab groups in Darfur. It was a momentous occasion that ultimately petered out without a prosecution, leaving newspapers constantly referring to him as the president “wanted for war crimes.” 2010 was also the year that Sudan’s National Security Act was repealed and replaced with a new one that granted the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) more power to arrest, detain, and torture protestors based on vague grounds. The government protected many NISS officers from prosecution after they were accused of sexual violence and publicly flogging women in the streets.
Sudanese families traditionally approve when and where an unmarried woman can meet with friends, so there was a notable lack of physical spaces where women could connect and vent their frustrations. Living under an authoritarian state, daily speech was also heavily policed. But with Minbar-Shat, Omer was able to provide a space for women to privately share information they might otherwise be too scared to divulge. “The men disagreed with what we were doing,” Omer said. But at the time, she wasn’t afraid of repercussions; she considered the resistance from men as just “talk.”
Marine Alneel, a 26-year-old group member and activist, remembers once when a woman posted a picture of a guy she was dating who had invited her to meet his parents. The woman was hesitant to move the relationship forward, so she posted his picture to find out more intel on him and discovered that two other women in the group were dating him. The women decided that one would ask him to meet at a popular restaurant in Khartoum and then the other women would show up. “After that story, that’s when everyone was like—this group, we need to beware,” Alneel said laughing.
Women have always played a key role in challenging regime rule in Sudan while fighting for female equality. The “morality laws,” one of Bashir’s most infamous pieces of legislation, allowed police to whip anyone who did not adhere to vague ideas of public decency, including ways of dressing. The law inevitably ended up discriminating against women, as their bodies faced the most scrutiny in the context of “public morality.” By 2015, in regime-ruled Sudan, women were desperately in need of platforms to help them hold men accountable. Minbar-Shat became one of those platforms.
“If you girls had nothing to do in life and you just want to talk about men, then I’m sorry.”
The group grew into a support network for women around the country. Members would often help each other with advice and life problems; Omer said Minbar-Shat once collected around $2,000SD in small donations for a woman who needed help paying for college. “We helped sick people, students, someone building a house,” she said.
But not every female activist in Sudan was completely on board with the group at first. 30-year-old Rowa Kodi, a women’s rights activist, joined the group for the first time in 2015. Dissatisfied with the lack of conversation on social issues, she left soon after. “I thought, ‘If you girls had nothing to do in life and you just want to talk about men, then I’m so sorry,” Kodi said. “But then, to some extent they were able to be the first advocates for topics like womens’ rights and rape victims.” After 2018, she rejoined when she saw a transformation. Topics of conversation within the group had shifted alongside the political climate; soon the women were talking more about rallies and activist slogans than badly behaved men. As major protests started to spread across Sudan, the group became an important political tool in the fight for the country’s future.
Kodi herself had been a part of many major protests in Sudan since she was in college. But when they erupted again in December of 2018 it felt different, she says. The protests started in Ad-Damazin, the capital of Sudan’s Blue Nile state and one of the most economically vulnerable regions. This small southeastern region had been devastated by high food prices due to economic policies that lead to crippling inflation. Once Bashir announced that he was going to end wheat subsidies, the price of bread tripled. In Sudanese Arabic, Bread is “Aeesh,” which literally translates to “life:” people began putting their lives on the line in protest.
The protests bloomed across the country throughout December, but Bashir was undeterred. “Changing the government and changing the president will not be through WhatsApp nor Facebook, but will be through the ballot box,” he told supporters in the provincial capital of Kassala.
The government responded to the mass of protesters in Khartoum by granting NISS officers free rein to terrorize them on the streets. They came to protest areas with pick-up trucks armed with AK-47 rifles and pistols; they used tear gas, batons or truncheons to disperse the crowds. Hundreds were critically injured, and women—who comprised up to 70% of the marchers—faced some of the worst retaliation.
Many popular women’s Facebook groups turned into makeshift organizing headquarters during this time. The Forces of Freedom and Change, the coalition of Sudanese groups that organized the protests, made Facebook posts for groups to share. Popular beauty and hair care groups started spreading the word about protests, as did another chit-chat group that talked about women’s crushes called El-Radmia. In Minbar-Shat, “after the second week of January, if you posted anything other than the revolution, you were really shamed about it,” said Omer.
In January 2019, a woman messaged Omer privately on Facebook to tell her about a NISS officer who had harassed and followed her home. The girl managed to take a picture of the guard on her phone and sent it to Omer, asking if she could post it on Minbar-Shat so one of the hundreds of thousands of members could help find his address and tell his family what he had done. Omer complied; soon after, a woman commented with the guard’s name and address.
“He got really scared,” Omer said. “After this incident [the NISS officers] all started to cover their faces” so they couldn’t be identified by the women, who had begun posting pictures of NISS guards instead of crushes. That month, Minber-Shat found its place in the revolution. Omer decided to officially turn the group into a place to shame NISS officers and organize protests. “There are people killing each other, fighting with the government, there is a lot of stuff going on in Sudan,” Omer said.“That is not the right time for posting pictures or fun stuff and videos.” Omer began approving all posts and deleting those that didn’t revolve around the revolution.
Omer, now 29, is the oldest of nine siblings and hails from a poor family in Khartoum. She came to the U.S. so she could work to send money home while attending college. “Everything is expensive and there were no jobs,” Omer said of her childhood in Khartoum. Now she lives in Nebraska with her two-month-old baby, while her husband, whom she is trying to help get U.S. citizenship, lives in Sudan. Though she wasn’t able to physically be a part of the revolution, Minbar-Shat made her feel like she could take place in the historical protests from afar.
But the Sudanese government was watching the group carefully, and threatened them on many occasions, according to Omer. Most of the threats she received were over the phone, but she also heard that the government was asking for hackers to expose the group in exchange for money. As men started creating fake female accounts to sneak their way in, she began enforcing stricter background checks for new members. But since many Sudanese women are Muslim and value modesty, they don’t always use a real picture of themselves as profile photos, which made it harder to figure out which profiles were fake. Omer admits there are men on the page, but she does her best to monitor and kick out members she assumes are men. “They say things, different and weird, not like us,” Omer said on how she would detect a man.
“There are people killing each other, fighting with the government. There is a lot of stuff going on in Sudan. That is not the right time for posting fun stuff and videos.”
Concerns about the group’s safety came to a head in March 2019 when an administrator was imprisoned. Omer remembers receiving a call from the administrator’s phone, but when she answered, a man was on the line. The man identified himself as a NISS officer and told her that the government had tracked the administrator down using her IP address. She was arrested on the street while riding in an Uber. “They said they would arrest her forever and said they would arrest my family” if she did not shut the group down, Omer said. After alerting Omer to her friend’s arrest, the officer passed her the phone so she could speak with Omer. Scared, her administrator told her that the government would agree to let her out of jail if Omer gave them control of Minbar-Shat. Omer was undeterred. “All the women—they trust me. There are at least 300,000 members of the group. If we close it, it will be dangerous to them as well,” she said. The administrator was freed from jail about a month later after the government’s demands went un-met.
Minbar-Shat remains influential in Sudanese politics, even after Bashir was ousted from power in April 2019 and replaced with the Sudan Sovereign Council, which now runs the country’s 3-year transition period. On August 19, a woman posted a photo to the group of a local pharmacist named Nasri Morgos the day after it was announced he was nominated as the eleventh member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council. In the post, the woman said that Morgos, an endeared “uncle figure” and well-respected expert in the medical field, had asked her to go behind an aluminum curtain during a consultation at the pharmacy, where he rubbed her legs and lifted up her skirt. Frightened and confused, she ran away.
“I know that I am not alone,” the woman began her post. Within moments, many other women commented with harrowing stories that chronicled years of alleged sexual harassment from the pharmacist. Within a day of the post’s creation, the Sudan Sovereign Council announced their decision to let a female member take over the seat instead. There was no official announcement about why Morgos’s nomination was revoked, but most activists say the answer is obvious. “Minbar-Shat admins are part of these resistant committees in local neighborhoods,” Kodi said. “They have good connections with the Freedom of Change Forces. Two of the victims met with them.”
In February, Omer went back to Khartoum for the first time in two years, and said she was greeted with screaming fans. “When I was in Sudan, I heard people talking about Rania Omer and the group like everywhere,” she said. “I was famous. I wasn’t used to this.” The group had become larger than life, and Omer anointed a revolutionary hero.
Kodi, who’d originally been skeptical of Minbar-Shat, is one of Omer’s fans. She believes the group has given a reason to “dominate” post-Bashir Sudan even now that members have gone back to posting pictures of cheating men. “Cheating on us, or abusing us—whatever you do it will be exposed,” she said.
“I think Sudanese men will think twice before they cheat now,” she added. ILIANA HAGENAHIliana Hagenah is a writer and producer based in New York City who enjoys telling stories about news, culture, but mostly rebellious women.
October 6, 2019 (KHARTOUM,) – Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP) has accused the Islamist “anti-revolutionary factions” of working to mobilize the masses in an attempt to pounce on the recently formed transitional authority after the collapse of their regime. ( Under Omar al- Bashir)
In a statement issued on Sunday, the SCoP Media Secretariat says that it has been monitoring plans by anti-peaceful democratic transition aiming to “use the difficulties the transitional government is encountering to mobilize the mass to cover up a military coup under the pretext of taking side with people’s will.”
The SCoP’s statement comes after calls in the social media from members of the Islamic movement to launch a series of protests ending by a sit-in outside the army headquarters on 21 October to demand the military to “correct the course of the revolution”.
One of the Sudanese Islamists who called for the protest Ammar Alsjad, a PCP leading member, said that the national and Islamic forces have given the FFC, an “adequate opportunity”, but now they will “work to correct the course of the revolution”.
The SCoP party which is one of the main components of the ruling Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) pointed out that the transitional government is committed to the slogans and objectives of the revolution after its formation and won the satisfaction of local and international.
“It does not make sense to expect the final results of its work before the end of one month since its assignment,” further said the statement.
The difficult economic challenges facing the transitional government coupled with the high expectations of the Sudanese street encourage the Sudanese Islamists to increase their efforts to destabilize Hamdok’s cabinet.
In a related development, the Popular Congress Party distanced itself from a call by some of its leading members to demonstrate on October 21 in front of the army headquarters.
Acting Secretary-General Bashir Adam Rahma told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that his party “has not issued any statement on the demonstration on October 21st.”