September 21, 2021, Reuters reported that Sudanese officials foiled a coup aimed at overthrowing the transitional government that replaced the regime of former President Omar al-Bashir. Twenty-one people with military and non-military affiliations were arrested after an investigation revealed their links to the attempted coup. Many believe the group had supported Omar al-Bashir. Their potential plans after a successful coup are still unclear. Despite hopes that the transitional Sudanese government will adopt democratic values, the “vestiges” of al-Bashir’s influence and hostilities remain significant.
Omar al-Bashir took office in 1993 – war, corruption and genocide characterized his presidency. Al-Bashir made one of his most egregious decisions in 2003 when he “enlisted the aid” of Janjaweed, an Arab militia, to attack an uprising of opposing forces in Darfur. Britannica says the Janjaweed have become responsible for inflicting severe damage on innocent civilians, leading to the displacement of nearly 2 million people and the deaths of more than 300,000. This group has also deliberately blocked the access of international humanitarian organizations to provide the necessary assistance to affected populations. As a result, Bashir’s decision exacerbated existing ethnic tensions and crippled countless communities. In turn, the International Penal Court (CPI) brought two charges against Bashir: he was charged with crimes against humanity in 2009 and genocide in 2010.
Despite these accusations, Bashir maintained his presidency through corrupt practices, eliminating those perceived as a political threat. However, in 2019 an increasingly frustrated Sudanese population overthrew Bashir in a successful coup. Shortly after his departure, Bashir was “convicted of corruption” as well as “illegitimate possession of foreign currency”. In addition, Sudan has put in place a transitional government supported by the United Nations and favored by Western actors. He was meant to be a hybrid of civilian and military leadership, encouraging the development of democratic institutions. Led by the new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, this new body marked the hope of easing tensions, promoting peace and involving Sudanese civil society in critical decision-making.
After two years, new challenges began to strain the Sudanese government. Al Jazeera reports that the transitional body has shown a “total lack of leadership”, ultimately failing to create a “detailed political program” to tackle Covid-19, persistent internal conflicts, scarcity of resources and climate-induced threats. Al Jazeera also says there has been no indication of a “civilian component” in the “hybrid” system promised by the government, leaving civilians frustrated and fearing that little change has taken place. Failure to integrate civilians into its government will undermine Sudan’s attempt to break out of its past and resolve the lingering structural problems that the new regime has vowed to address.
In addition, concerns have increased about Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a “powerful paramilitary force” supported by the transitional government. According to Human Rights Watch, his violent actions mimicked the conduct of past groups and demonstrated ” [use of] authority. “Accounts of Vice News in 2020 highlight the concerns of residents of Darfur who fear being “slaughtered, killed or raped” at the hands of government sanctioned forces. Many interviewees say they have no choice but to join rebel groups that “offer protection” against government forces. These reports communicate the gruesome reality of Sudan’s internal affairs and the role the new government is playing in facilitating them.
While much work remains to be done to alleviate past and current challenges, there has been some progress towards claiming justice for the lives devastated by war. For example, in August 2021, Al Jazeera reports that the transitional government of Sudan has pledged to “hand over longtime leader Omar al-Bashir to the ICC”, 10 years after the ICC’s first statement of charges. Bashir, alongside his other supporting officials, must be held accountable for his role in inciting the Sudanese genocide. In order to ensure the well-being of the communities, the Sudanese transitional government must also reconsider its role in the continuation of hostilities through the RSF. International organizations, such as the United Nations, through its United Nations peacekeeping force, will also play a vital role in monitoring regional peacemaking initiatives. Prioritizing the needs of all Sudanese will be of the utmost importance, and failing to do so will jeopardize the future of Sudan.