Sudan’s complex political confrontation continues. The confrontation nominally pits the ruling MTC (Military Transitional Council) against the broad coalition of political activists and anti-Bashir factions now led by the AFC (Alliance for Freedom and Change) coordinating organization. In some reports, the AFC is called the Declaration of Freedom and Change. But this is not a one on one face off. The MTC and the AFC are both factionalized. General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan still officially leads the MTC, the group of senior military officers that toppled former dictator Omar al Bashir on April 11. However, in the last four weeks, general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (aka Hemedti), the MTC’s deputy chairman, has become an increasingly powerful national figure. Opposition leaders fear he is orchestrating a counter-revolution that will keep the military in power and effectively continue Bashir’s regime. Hemedti has the support of the RSF (Rapid Support Forces), a special militia directed by the NISS (National Intelligence and Security Service) and the direct descendant of the notorious “janjaweed militias” that savaged Darfur from 2004 to 2009. At one time Hemedti helped coordinate janjaweed operations in Darfur. Hemedti also has ties to former intelligence chief Salah Gosh. Rumors swirl that political frictions are creating political divisions within the MTC junta. The opposition is definitely a motley assortment. The one thing opposition groups have in common is they despise Bashir. But the dictator’s gone. Without Bashir’s evil glue to bind the opposition, differences are emerging. (Austin Bay)
May 31, 2019: The MTC shut down the capital (Khartoum) offices of the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera news service and declared Al Jazeera reporters can no longer cover events in Sudan. Former ruler Bashir used to do the same thing to news organization he didn’t like. The MTC also declared that a massive sit-in protest in the capital had become a threat to the popular revolution. Demonstrators at the Khartoum sit in demanded that the military accept “limited representation” on the proposed national council that would prepare for national elections. Protestors have threatened to expand the sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience. The strikes and demonstrations would tie in with labor strikes and nation-wide rallies.
May 30, 2019: The UN extended for one more year the arms embargo and political sanctions imposed on South Sudan. Five Security Council members abstained: China, Russia, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and South Africa. Note that China and Russia did not veto the extension, but merely abstained. South Africa said that its government has concluded that the sanctions do not help move forward the transitional political process in South Sudan. Sixteen NGOs as well as several African regional political organizations had urged the security council to maintain the embargo and sanctions. They also asked the Security Council to continue to pressure South Sudanese leaders on both sides to implement the September 2018 peace agreement, now called the R-ARCSS (Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan).
A positive development is that one of South Sudan’s most important oil fields is once again producing oil. The government reported the Al Toor field (Ruweng state, northern South Sudan) began pumping today and produced 5,000 barrels. That means national oil output is now right at 180,000 barrels per day. The government believes sometime between the end of June and mid-July South Sudan will be producing 240,000 to 245,000 barrels a day. Industry analysts believe a little over 200,000 by late 2019 is a more realistic figure. Still, 200,000 to 225,000 bpd in 2019 is an achievement given the level of destruction and disruption South Sudan’s oil industry has experienced. The damage included the loss of trained oil field personnel who were either killed or driven into exile. That was often accompanied by damage to infrastructure like roads, pipelines, facilities and power supplies. Pre-civil war production ranged from 350,000 to 400,000 barrels per day. The government claims that the production rate could be reached by the end of 2020 if the peace agreement is implemented. Industry experts say wait and see. (Austin Bay)
Over 30,000 protestors (more by some estimates) participated in a demonstration in Sudan’s capital. They demanded immediate civilian rule. Several “tens of thousands” of protestors then joined a sit-in “encampment” in central Khartoum. A spokesman for the ruling MTC accused the “encampment” of threatening order in the city. Another military leader, the commander of the central region in Khartoum, accused violent “elements” (among the demonstrators) of attacking an RSF militia vehicle.
May 29, 2019: Western diplomats and Sudanese opposition groups believe that the MTC does not want to hand over power to a civilian government because senior military officers fear they will be prosecuted for atrocities against civilians and other war crimes.
The Sudan Doctors Committee claimed that stray bullets fired by Sudanese Army soldiers killed a pregnant woman in the capital. The incident occurred on the second day of a general strike in the capital.
May 28, 2019: Sudanese protestors began the first day of a two-day long general strike designed to pressure the MTC to turn over government power to civilians.
Yasir Arman, deputy leader one of the rebel SPLM-N (Sudan People's Liberation Movement North) two main factions, returned to Sudan. Arman faces an in absentia death sentence.
May 26, 2019: Foreign aid workers report that violence against all aid workers has increased in South Sudan. The southeast (Eastern Equatoria state) is a particularly dangerous area. Several aid convoys have been ambushed and robbed in that area. The South Sudanese government admitted that its soldiers continue to fight with forces loyal to rebel general Thomas Cirillo, who refused to sign the September 2018 peace agreement.
May 25, 2019: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan's ruling MTC, has met in Cairo with Egyptian president (and former general) Sisi. This is Burhan’s first trip outside of Sudan since the MTC toppled Bashir.
May 24, 2019: Russia announced that it signed an agreement with former Sudanese president Bashir that allows Russian Navy ships to use Sudanese ports. The agreement became effective May 9.
May 22, 2019: Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo claimed that Sudan’s military wants to hand power to a democratically elected Sudanese government “as soon as possible.” Dagalo claimed that the military is tired of running the government and wants to hand over power “today, not tomorrow.” However, the MTC is now insisting on a three year long transition period. The MTC and the AFC had discussed a three-year long period and both sides appeared to agree on the timetable. Then power-sharing talks collapsed. Prior to the last round of talks, the opposition had demanded a two year long transition period. Meanwhile, Sudan’s most prominent revolutionary group, the Sudan Professionals Association, called for a general strike.
May 17, 2019: Industry analysts report that around 175,000 barrels a day of South Sudanese oil is being delivered by pipeline to Port Sudan (in Sudan, on the Red Sea). The oil business matters to both Sudans. South Sudan pays Sudan a transport fee of nine dollars a barrel. Through December 2019, South Sudan pays Sudan an additional fifteen dollars a barrel in what is called a ”transitional financial agreement.”
May 15, 2019: Power-sharing discussions between Sudan’s MTC and the protest coordinating committee have been put on hold. Both sides gave street violence in the capital as the reason to cease political talks. The opposition accused the military junta of firing on peaceful demonstrators. An MTC spokesman said talks were suspended for at least 72 hours.
May 13, 2019: Claim and counter-claim. Opposition political leaders claimed unnamed attackers fired on pro-democracy in the Sudan capital The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors claimed at least six people were shot dead. The MTC dismissed the accusations and claimed a military officer was killed and a "large number" of protesters injured in an incident instigated by people “seeking to undermine the revolution."
May 12, 2019: According to Sudanese security officials, former president Bashir continues to be held in the capital (Kober maximum security prison). Sudan's public prosecutor has now charged Bashir with incitement to violence and involvement in the killing of protesters. He may face charges of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Meanwhile, senior members of the SPLM-N Agar (Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North led by Malik Agar) have arrived in the Sudan capital to meet with representatives from the AFC. Opposition leaders are trying to bring all armed movements into the revolutionary coalition.
May 10, 2019: Representatives of the SPA (Sudanese Professionals Association) said that the organization intends to work for a full-fledged democracy in Sudan. However, several leaders in the SPA acknowledge they are frustrated by the “lack of progress” being made by the AFC coalition. Several SPA members contend that a continuation of military rule amounts to a continuation of Omar al-Bashir’s regime.
May 7, 2019: Post-mortems on former president Bashir and his government continue to appear. The Darfur insurgency and the Darfur genocide are frequent topics. Bashir faces International Criminal Court indictment on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Loss of oil revenue, due to declining prices and South Sudan’s independence, harmed Bashir’s ability to rule. However, his critics point out the kleptocracy (crooked government) he oversaw wasted oil revenue when it was abundant. Moreover, the fake elections he ran undermined Sudan’s political vitality. The litany of dictatorial ills doesn’t end there. Bashir jailed reporters and shut down opposition news outlets. He suppressed labor unions and professional associations and harassed and jailed religious minorities (Christians were a particular target). Moreover, he turned Sudan in a terrorist-supporting state. He hosted such notorious terrorists as Osama Bin Laden, Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal. (Austin Bay)