Since protests broke out in Sudan in December, the situation has remained fluid. The ouster of long-term president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, however, has brought no end to the protests. With the recent military crackdown on protesters, in which over a hundred were killed and dozens raped, there are concerns over some 5,000 Nigerian students in the country. Daily Trust takes a look at the crisis.
Social media is turning blue for Sudan. But in Khartoum, capital of the Northeast African Country, the famous blue waters of the Nile have been running red. Forty bodies were pulled out of the river, according to doctors affiliated to the protesters. Over a hundred protesters had been killed in recent military crackdown in the country.
On Thursday, the doctors released a list of 112 names of those killed in the military crackdown following the ouster of long-term dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989.
With the situation in the country still very fluid, and a struggle for power between the military and civilian protesters demanding civil rule, about 5,000 Nigerian students might be stranded in the country.
These figures are according to Sudan’s ambassador to Nigeria, Ibrahim Bushra Mohammed Ali who in a 2018 interview with Daily Trust Saturday said there are over five million Sudanese of Nigerian origin in the country.
There are many reports of Nigerians, mostly students, trapped in Sudan as the crisis spirals further downwards. They had, through social media and apps like WhatsApp, extended cries for help to family, friends and the Nigerian government. That is, before the government’s internet shutdown cut them off from the rest of the world.
Some of the Nigerian students stranded in Sudan now are desperate for exit cards to get out, according to Hafsat Adamu, one of the students who managed to escape the country as the crackdown was on.
Hafsat, a medical student in a Sudanese university, said she witnessed what she “never hopes to experience again in her life.” Now home, finally, she has had no contact with her fellow Nigerians in Sudan due to the internet shut-down in Sudan to prevent protesters from strategizing.
What is happening in Sudan?
Increase in bread prices in December was the height of the economic crisis in the oil-rich Sudan that led to mass street protests. The protest soon turned to a revolution with calls for al-Bashir to vacate the office of president he had occupied since 1989. The protesters soon camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, calling on the military to oust al-Bashir who they blame for mismanaging the economy.
On April 11, the military, previously strong allies of al-Bashir ousted the president and had him and his cronies arrested. That move was cheered as a victory for the revolution.
But whatever hopes the protesters had of a successful revolution were soon dashed when the Transitional Military Council established a government under Lt. Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan and sparse civilian representation.
The protesters refused to call off their sit-out outside the army’s headquarters, and following breakdown of talks between the Forces of Freedom, representing the protesters and the TMC in the last days of Ramadan, the military decided to roll out the tanks.
On June 3, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a notorious military unit that had grown from the infamous Janjaweed militia under Lt. Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo, believed to be the real force behind the throne, marched out troops and carried out what has been described as a massacre of peaceful protesters. Some protesters were reported to have been lined up on a bridge before being thrown over by soldiers.
‘They are killing people outside’
When the military crackdown started, Hafsat and her fellow Nigerian students were in their residence. She did not get wind of the trouble until the next day.
“At around noon on the 4th of June, the internet went off. We thought it would come back later in the day, but it didn’t,” she said.
She was home with her roommates and sister and they remained indoors except for when they went to look for dinner after the evening prayers. They returned home promptly.
“At almost 1 am, the imam at the mosque announced that everyone should lock his doors and windows and stay indoors because they’re killing people outside. He said the army were the ones doing this. We could hear the continuous gunshots outside,” she said.
Hafsat bolted her doors and pushed chairs against it. She then went to take her bath but before she could even start, she heard gunshots just outside her house. Soon some people were banging on their gates.
“I then performed ablution and left the bathroom. We all sat in a corner of my sister’s room, which had no window. It’s the most secure room in the house. So we secluded ourselves there. We could hear people’s screams from outside. They [soldiers] were entering houses, raping and beating the inhabitants,” she said.
The gunshots and screams continued for two hours into the wee hours of the night, before it all went quiet. Terrified, the students decided to split themselves into groups. While some went for toilet breaks, two others went to the kitchen to grab food. Hafsat went to fetch pillows.
“The moment I went to grab the pillows, the gunshots started again. So, we all had to run back to the same room. We ended up staying there all night without eating or drinking,” she said.
At dawn, prayers were held as usual and the imam, announced that protests were going to resume after the Friday prayers.
“But about 15 minutes after that announcement, shootings started again,” Hafsat said. “That day, three people were slaughtered. No one died of gunshot wounds, but many were injured.”
The crackdown was followed by calls of civil disobedience, a strategy protesters adopted to shut down the country.
Desperate and afraid, Hafsat was barely able to reach her dad on the phone to tell him she wanted to come back home to Nigeria right away.
With the call for civil disobedience set to ground flights out of Sudan, her desperation was genuine. She needed to leave the country before that happened.
“Lucky enough, I already had an exit permit, so I could leave the country immediately. All my documents were ready. All I had to do was get my ticket and leave. Many of my friends are still stranded there because it’s close to impossible to get an exit permit with the current situation,” she said.
“Almost all the shops are closed and those open have limited amounts of food to sell. There’s no transport whatsoever due to the fact there’s no petrol, so if you’re going out to buy anything, you have to go on foot. No phone credit, nothing. It’s worse than living under house arrest. We have no news of what’s going on.”
On Wednesday, protest leaders called off the call for civil disobedience because it had affected the populace of the country as much as it had affected the government.
With Hafsat finally out of Sudan, and internet in the country still shut down, Sudan is effectively a black hole with no information coming out. Hafsat has not been able to reach her friends to find out how they are.
Messages sent to journalists in Sudan have remained undelivered.
On Thursday, TMC spokesperson, Shams al Din Kabashi speaking in Khartoum, gave an update on the situation.
He confirmed that the TMC ordered the crackdown to dislodge protesters “but we regret some mistakes happened.”
On chances of the talks resuming with the protesters however, Kabashi said, “What is delaying the negotiation is the false understanding of a civilian government. In my view, civilian is the authorities, the ruling, the task which we agreed on. After we agreed that government ministers and legislative council would be civilian led, they are still shouting civilian, civilian.”
At the moment, the RSF is firmly in control of the the capital and have demonstrated they have no qualms shooting unarmed civilians and raping women to assert this, what is still unclear is whether Sudan’s revolution will follow the path of those in Libya, Syria and Egypt and die before they are even born.
While the rest of the world is hash-tagging #blueforsudan, Hafsat, recovering back in Nigeria is relieved to be home. But her relief is short lived like Sudan’s euphoria after ousting al-Bashir. She will remain worried about her friends and fellow Nigerians in Sudan, until there is news of them.
Things head further South in Sudan
Sudan has recently fallen victim of massacres carried out by the country’s military, after citizens staged protests across the country for democracy. Yet the world has remained silent of the plight of the Sudanese, with over 500 killed with over 40 pulled out of the Nile, 60 raped, over 700 people missing and 650 arrested, according to reports.
With the media blackout in Sudan, prosecution of journalists and absolutely no internet, the situation in Sudan has had close to little coverage to truly show what has been happening on ground in the country, and the number of atrocities happening as well.
Social media has become a sea of blue, with users on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users across the world showing solidarity on the deadly crackdown.
It all began in December 2018, when the price of bread tripled, and in response the citizens of the nation protested, eventually leading to the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April, who had been in power for three decades.
Since then, pro-democracy protesters had camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, demanding for a civilian-led democratic government. But the situation went from bad to worse on June 3rd, the last day of Ramadan, when the military began killing civilians, to kill the momentum gaining revolution.