Cape Town - Let’s talk about Sudan.
Their former president, Omar al-Bashir has appeared in court on corruption charges relating to the illegal possession of more than 100 million dollars in foreign currency, among other things.
Sudan is in a bad space right now.
You may have seen social media users turning their profile pictures to a shade of blue - it’s the favourite colour of Mohammed Hashim Mattar, a pro-democracy protester who was 26 when he was gunned down by security forces.
So, how did we get here?
On June 3, security forces tried to break up a camp of pro-democracy protesters, things turned violent, and more than 100 people were killed.
Why were they protesting for democracy?
Well, their president, Omar al-Bashir, had been in power for 29 years, after leading a military coup back in 1989. Sure, there have been elections, but he’s always won.
Sudan has had a military government since he took power - the presidential palace is also the military headquarters.
The people want change. They’re demanding a transition to a civilian government over a period of three years.
The Sudanese Professionals Association is a coalition of doctors, lawyers, teachers and like-minded professionals who have claimed responsibility for a civil disobedience campaign, rallying and gathering in defiance of curfews and crackdowns.
On June 3 it all came to a head where the military was allegedly responsible for a massacre - 112 people killed, according to the protest leaders, excluding 40 bodies fished from the Nile river.
The protesters had been demonstrating since April, mostly through sit-ins around the military HQ. They wanted al-Bashir out.
Remember, he’s the only sitting president to have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for his for his alleged role in mass killings in the war in Darfur from about 2003.
The Darfur crisis resulted in between 100 thousand and 400 thousand deaths.
Now that al-Bashir is in custody, all should be well, right?
Not really… Sudan’s military rulers look set to continue governing the country, and apparently have the financial backing of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The protesters don’t really have any friends, but Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed has been travelling back and forth to try and broker a peace deal and arrive at some sort of compromise that will put Sudan on the path to peace and democracy.
Al-Bashir may be gone, but the military is still in power, and that’s why the protests continue to this day - the Sudanese don’t want another dictator.
The government has shut off access to the internet, so the protesters fears are indeed real.
So, what’s the international community doing about this?
Well, the UK and US have condemned the violence and have called for a peaceful resolution, while the African Union has suspended Sudan - meaning the AU would not intervene if a neighbouring country were to step in to enforce peace by whatever means necessary.
Ahmed wants a peaceful resolution, though, and there are hopes he can broker a deal between Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Professionals Association.