Protests Erupt in Sudan creating Bashir Government Crisis
By Lt. Gen. Abakar M. Abdullah, Jerome B. Gordon and Deborah S. Martin (February 2018)
anuary 16, 2018, 102 days since President Trump issued an executive order lifting Sudan sanctions on October 6, 2017; Khartoum was wracked by thousands of protesters. Cell phone videos held images of thousands gathered in the streets shouting, “No to higher prices . . . against hunger and against poverty.” Watch here and here. They were expressing long simmering grievances over high prices for bread that had shrunk from loafs to finger sized portion, producing hunger, hyper-inflation, and high unemployment for youths.
SPLM—Mini Minawi resistance official, A. Ayami writing in a Sudan Tribune commentary on January 16th captured the scene in Khartoum about to explode in the face of what he deemed, an “ailing regime”:
In Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan (the city that knows no secrets, as it is always described) the talk there is not about the uncomfortable weather, which in this season is dry, cold, dusty and windy. Nor is it about the city’s broken sewage system and the polluted water or about the notorious militia known as Rapid Support Force (RSF), which frequently harasses the citizens. Nor is it about the horrible stories of War in Darfur and/or in Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. It is not even about the long-standing but censored issue of the already devastating Cholera epidemic ravaging throughout the country. The talk, this time, is about only one thing-UPRISING.
The town is pregnant, electrified and imminently explosive. The reason is the increase in food prices (especially bread and sugar), devaluation of the Sudanese Pound and the shortage of fuel.
Sudan’s millions of unemployed youths, with no access to any basic employment , (except sitting round local tea makers and sipping tea and occasionally browsing on their phones, with heavy presence of secret service agents watching over their shoulders. They spend their day’s busy networking through social media and deliberating on how to stage public protest to resist the sky rocking food prices.
Sporadic protests have already started, a dozen have been arrested and even some casualties recorded in Khartoum, Omdurman, Medani, Al-Genaina, Al-Obeid, Nyala, Sinar, Kosti, Atbara, Port Sudan, Dongola, Jadugle and Kassala.
Sudanese activists are exposing on social media every aspect of President Bashir’s lavish lifestyle and that of his family, and associates. They even exhibited the President’s expensive Rolex watch and compared the life of his family to that of France’s last Queen Marie Antoinette who faced summary execution upon charges of corruption and provocative lifestyle. This is in reference to some around the President who are living in lavish style. The activists are citing Queen Antoinette’s provocative statement in which she wondered as to "why the French hungry mob should not eat cake, if they cannot get bread”!!!
Those grievances had been stoked by opposition newspapers reports and commentary. Over the period from December 5, 2017 to January 17, 2018, the Bashir National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) had shut down and severely fined more than a dozen news outlets. An Imam even issued a Fatwa that seizing of newspapers was Haram—meaning forbidden under Sharia. Further complicating the situation, the Bashir regime NISS on January 18th arrested a stringer for Reuters and an AFP reporter in Khartoum. These actions prompted an international protest from Reporters without Borders observers in Khartoum.
In the midst of this turmoil, hidden from the public view an internal battle was going on inside the Muslim Brotherhood/National Congress Party (NCP) regime of International Criminal Court (ICC)-indicted President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir of Sudan. Bashir has two outstanding warrants for his arrest in 2009 and 2010 that a number of Africa and Arab countries have refused to honor. This was in reaction to the protests forcing the government to shuffle leadership posts to retain control over internal dissidents.
A US Congressional delegation was originally scheduled to visit Khartoum on January 21st in the midst of daily protests. However, the visit was suspended due to a temporary shutdown of the federal government in Washington caused by a dispute over funding. Whenever that Congressional Delegation arrives in Sudan the objective is to question the Bashir government about its performance on the five factors from the original Obama executive Order 13761 issued on January 13, 2017 and relied on by President Trump to issue the permanent lifting of the 20-year sanctions on October 6th. Chief among these performance measures were demonstrated continuance of counterintelligence cooperation about the location of the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony, efforts towards and delivery of humanitarian assistance, reconciliation with resistance groups in the principal conflict zones of Darfur, Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region. The Bashir regime is insisting that the US State Department lift Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism that its shares with North Korea, Syria and Iran. That US action might lift the financial risk of private investment, the subject of a visiting US business delegation on December 3, 2017. On November 16, 2017, a US State Department delegation headed by Undersecretary John Sullivan communicated its willingness to consider such a move given evidence to justify the action.
Instead, the Bashir regime, as documented in the book produced by the co-authors, Genocide in Sudan: Caliphate threatens Africa and the World, released on September 20, 2017, decided in the secret notes of the National Political Crisis Committee meeting of June 18, 2017, that the lifting of US Sanctions would have the opposite effect. The consensus of leaders at the National Political Crisis Committee session suggested that action by President Trump would afford them a return to freedom of action in relation to Muslim Brotherhood allies like Qatar and Turkey and even rapprochement with its long-term terrorism partner, the Shia Supremacist Islamic Republic of Iran.
That meant it could unleash 34,000 Rapid Support Force/Janjaweed mobile heavy weapons equipped graduates from 16 training camps in the Khartoum region to continue the ethnic genocide of indigenous African peoples in Darfur and the other principal conflict zones. That would further the secret Arab Coalition Plan objective to complete the eradication of indigenous African peoples in Sudan by 2020. The estimated toll to date is that more than 600,000 have been killed in Darfur and the other conflict zones, 5 million have been forcibly dispersed to inadequately protected UNAMID internally displaced person camps, with several hundred thousand fleeing to UNHCR camps in neighboring Chad, the Central African Republic and elsewhere in Africa.
One aspect of Bashir’s duplicitous tactics, documented in Genocide in Sudan, is the periodic staged disarmament campaigns conducted by the NISS controlled RSF/Janjaweed mobile militia units against virtually unprotected UAMID IDP camps further dispersing the residents into cities and the hinterlands. Resistance to such Bashir regime actions results in further death and depredations by rampaging RSF/Janjaweed forces.
This wasn’t supposed to have happened following the lifting of sanctions by President Trump in early October 2017. The conventional wisdom was that his action would unleash a backlog of an estimated $6 billion in ex-patriate and financial remittances with access to the international financial transfer system of the Society for Worldwide Financial Transfers (SWFT). Instead , the funds were diverted to foreign military adventures in Yemen, and recruitment of a veritable 150,000-man jihad army from African affiliates of the Islamic State in Mali, Libya, Nigeria, the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda and Islamic State fighters from the Middle East. Their equipment and training was funded by Muslim Brother ally Qatar in an alliance seeking the infiltration and overthrow of neighboring governments in Libya, and the Central African Republic.
Bashir diverts attention from domestic problems by creating border tensions
The NCP regime of President Bashir has a history of exploiting crises to its benefit. These tactics are called crisis management. Let us illustrate. December 26, 2017, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a state visit to Muslim Brotherhood ally Sudan’s President Bashir. He brought with him economic agreements potentially worth billions and something else, an opportunity for Bashir to divert attention from his roiling domestic problems. In exchange for the magnanimous billion dollar deals inked between Turkey and Sudan, Bashir announced the gift of an ancient Ottoman port of Suakin located 35 miles north of Port Sudan that historically had been used to ferry Muslim pilgrims from Africa to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj to the two Shrines of Mecca and Medina. Turkey would reconstruct the port, create tourist facilities and possibly build a naval dock. The question arose as to whether this ‘gift’ was a further example of Erdogan‘s hegemonic objectives in the volatile Red Sea region of Africa. Turkey had already established a military base in Qatar, another member of the Muslim Brotherhood alliance in the Persian Gulf, and had recently established what ultimately may become a $50 million military base on the Horn of Africa in war torn Somalia.
Erdogan’s visit also created another opportunity for Bashir to further exacerbate relations with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, who had overthrown the first elected Muslim Brotherhood President in Egypt, Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Bashir had supported the Morsi Egyptian government and provided sanctuary of some Egyptian Muslim Brothers who fled. Erdogan have provided safe haven for Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian Hamas leaders in Turkey.
The temporary hand-over of Suakin to Turkey became an immediate flash point between Cairo and Khartoum. They have been engaged in a long-standing Hala'ib Triangle border dispute not resolved with the independence of Sudan in 1956. Then, there is the multibillion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project that affects control of the vital flow of the headwaters of the Nile River for Sudan and especially Egyptian agriculture. Egypt opposes possible Qatar funding of construction of the GERD project for that reason. During a visit to Doha in late November 2017 Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tried to quell such rumors when he stressed the GERD project would be funded, ‘locally’.
The Suakin transfer to Turkey also raised the ire of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The agreement over Suakin has triggered a heated debate in the region, as many saw Erdogan's move as an attempt to establish a third military base - after the ones in Qatar and Somalia - outside Turkey's borders.
Egyptian and Saudi media have harshly criticized the agreement, categorizing Erdogan's move as yet another attempt by what they call the "Turkey-Iran-Qatar axis" to undermine the stability and security of the so-called "Sunni moderate alliance," which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.
In a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart in Khartoum, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu strongly denied the existence of such an "axis", but he was unable to ease the tensions and convince the Egyptian leadership that the agreement over Suakin does not pose a threat for Cairo.
Bashir had set the stage for a diversion from his domestic problems when in late December 2017 he sent a letter to the UN citing the impasse in Cairo negotiations over the border dispute. That was the launch of a false geo-political crisis by Bashir creating fears of a needless security challenges to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Then on January 4, 2018 Bashir recalled his Ambassador to Egypt for ‘consultations’ in Khartoum. Egypt, with the assistance of the UAE, ferried hundreds of troops via helicopter to a UAE base in Eritrea. Sudan, in turn, closed the borders with both Egypt and Eritrea. Bashir called up 40,000 troops, declared a state of emergency in the States of Kassala and North Kordofan. The pretext was another of Bashir’s staged disarmament sweeps allegedly tracking weapons sent from Eritrea to resistance forces in Sudan.
Bashir had created a geo-political crisis that mystified Egypt’s El-Sisi who claimed there was no dispute.
When the GCC crisis erupted in June 2017, Sudan was in an uncomfortable situation. For the previous few years, it had tried to stay neutral during intra-GCC disputes, maintaining a close relationship with Qatar, but also sending troops to back the UAE and Saudi war effort in Yemen.
Last year, Khartoum refused to cut relations with Doha and was pushed out of the UAE-Saudi camp. Bashir’s overarching objective out of this game of alliances is to survive in power and secure his chance to run in the 2020 elections.
He realized that even though the US removed sanctions against Sudan, it is not interested in pushing for the International Criminal Court to drop the charges against him, nor does it support him to run in the 2020 elections. Hence, Bashir shifted towards Russia and Turkey.
That prompted this comment from M.C. Osman cited in a January 16, 2018 Sudan Tribune article:
If there are major pending issues between Egypt and Ethiopia on water matters, that is a known issue, but these two countries are rational states. They could easily resort to reason in resolving their disputes. Any misunderstandings between Eritrea and Ethiopia are also explainable given the background of the previous war they went through. For Sudan to spread threats of an imminent war against her from an invisible enemy, then the whole intention behind the outcry is questionable. Such behavior can only be interpreted in the context of its ongoing internal crisis. It is a tactic to distract public attention.
Rumored Presidential Palace revolt.
Meanwhile, while protests, beatings, arrests, newspaper closures and foreign correspondent arrests were being made in Khartoum an internal struggle for control of the “ailing” Bashir regime was going on inside the Presidential palace.
The protests in Khartoum and throughout Sudan created a crisis inside Bashir's Presidency. According to preliminary reports, Vice President Gen. Backri supported by the military rebelled against Bashir allegedly because of external pressures. Ibrahim Ghandour, Minister of Foreign Affairs resigned protesting against domestic policies of the Bashir Presidency, which was later rescinded. The regime was locked in a crisis with Bashir backed by the NISS on one side, contending with Gen. Bakri supported by the Sudan military.
According to social media reports, there is split between the Vice President Gen. Bakri and Bashir because of allegations of Bashir’s alleged wrong Presidential policies. Bakri, Ghandour and some of their supporters were arrested by the NISS on Bashir’s orders. Bakri was relieved of his positions and replaced by Ali Osman Mohamed Taha as the Prime Minister and the first Vice President of the Sudan. The irony is that Ali Osman Mohamed Taha was the Former Vice President of Sudan who was replaced by Bakri. Taha is in the inner circle of the NCP and is a hard liner, perhaps the most powerful member of the NCP. Politically, he may be stronger than Bashir but as a civilian he has no military command. He is ranked second only to Hassan Abdallah al-Turabi, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Organization in Sudan. He was the first Vice President after the NCP Coup by Bashir in 1989 and remained in his position until the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 when Salva Kiir, became the first Vice President whence he became the second Vice President. Kiir left in 2011 to become the current President of South Sudan.
Perhaps the rumored Presidential palace intrigue in Khartoum was just a stall for Bashir in his run for the Presidency in 2020.
Bashir's Islamist regime since its installation in 1989 imposed itself through the use of military force which paralyzed the entire region of Darfur forcing its productive inhabitants to abandon agricultural production to live in IDP camps. Others were forced to flee as refugees to adjacent countries becoming dependent on foreign humanitarian assistance. The Muslim Brotherhood NCP Islamist regime has neither a system of good governance nor sound policies creating economic growth and jobs for educated Sudanese. This has brought Sudan close to collapse through lack of food production producing hyperinflation. Those factors coupled with suppression of free speech and repression of minority Christians through destruction of churches and abrogation of their freedom of worship has produced the eruption of protests throughout the country. The Presidential Palace internal political crisis raises a large question about the future of the Bashir regime and its ability to fulfill the dream of creating an Islamic Sharia Caliphate in Africa ruled from Khartoum.
The suspended US Congressional delegation visit, originally scheduled for January 21, 2018, should be conducting due diligence to ascertain whether sanctions should be reinstated on a selective basis. and active monitoring of humanitarian conditions in the Sudan continued with retention of Sudan on the State Department list of designated State Supporters of terrorism.
Lt. Gen. Abdallah is Chairman of the Sudan Unity Movement. He is a native of North Darfur who joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 1984 and became active in the Nuba Hills and Darfurians resistance movements. In 1989 he joined the Patriotic Salvation Movement in neighboring Chad based in Darfur. He served as an officer in the Chadian army for 23 years. He held senior intelligence and counterterrorism posts including as Coordinator of the Multi-National Joint Task Force of Nigeria, Chad and Niger. He was Coordinator of Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) Anti-Terrorism Unit of Chad and Commander of PSI Anti-Terrorism Battalion of Chad 2004. He is a December 2002 graduate of the Intelligence Officers’ Advanced and Combating Terrorism Courses, US Army Intelligence Center and Schools, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He was a Counter Terrorism Fellow and a Graduate of the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, Washington, DC, 2005. He was an International Fellow and Graduate of the US Army War College, Class of 2008. He is a Graduate of the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College Course 22, of the year 2000.
Jerome B Gordon is a Senior Vice President of the New English Review and author of The West Speaks, NER Press 2012. Mr. Gordon is a former US Army intelligence officer who served during the Viet Nam era. He was the co-host and co-producer of The Lisa Benson Show on National Security that aired out of KKNT960 in Phoenix Arizona from 2013 to 2016. He is co-host and co-producer of the Middle East Round Table periodic series on 1330amWEBY, Northwest Florida Talk Radio, Pensacola. He is a frequent guest on Israel News Talk Radio- Beyond the Matrix Program.
Deborah Martin is a 36-year veteran linguistics specialist and consultant on Sudan culture and affairs. She is a long-term American Sudan human rights advocate having lived in both North and South Sudan. She conducted development projects as a professional engineer and linguist in a team with her late husband. She has worked on cultural research linguistics of Jieeng, Nuer, Bari, Jumjum, Masalit.
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