Charges of genocide and crimes against humanity couldn’t topple him, but a rise in the price of bread eventually spelt the endby Nesrine Malik / March 3, 2020 / Leave a comment
A year after the Sudanese revolution, and the ghosts of the dead haunt the city. Since the dramatic toppling of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, and the violent clearing of the main Khartoum protest site that followed, an eerie normality has settled in. Locations indelibly marked with the memory of bloodshed look prosaic. Fragments of protest murals and graffiti endure, but the rest have either been painted over or faded by the elements. Snippets of wedding song are carried on a breeze that not long ago brought the sounds of protest chants and the wails of mourners. There is a profound sense of dislocation.
The revolution began in late 2018, as economic collapse led to long queues for petrol, severe restrictions on cash withdrawals, and—what proved to be the last straw—a rise in bread prices. By early 2019, the protests that had spread across the country found a focal point at a colossal sit-in at the government’s military headquarters. Attempts to suppress the uprising forcefully only inflamed it further. Given the number of people who remained on the streets even after Bashir’s security forces shot at protestors and the death toll rose, it became clear that there were only two paths to resolution—massacre or Bashir’s departure from office.
On 11th April last year, the regime blinked. Bashir’s skill had always laid in reshuffling his inner circle into a configuration that was steadfast, supporting him through a merciless civil war in Darfur, the secession of the south, and his indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. But faced with the scale of the protests, Bashir’s coterie finally pushed him out. It was self-preservation rather than patriotism. The hope was that this would appease protesters and preserve the government power structure, continuing a Bashirism without Bashir. But it quickly became clear that the Sudanese people would not wear another military or para-military regime. After the violent dispersal of the sit-in, the new government conceded to a civilian coalition and elections to be held in late 2022.
Post-revolution transition periods are odd spaces—a sense of loss mixes with one of relief and tentative exploration of new freedoms.…