On September 21, 2021, Reuters reported that Sudanese officials thwarted a coup d’état aimed at overthrowing the transitional government that replaced former President Omar al-Bashir’s regime. Twenty-one people with military and non-military affiliations were arrested after an investigation revealed their connections to the attempted coup. Many speculate that the group had been backers of Omar al-Bashir. Their potential plans following a successful coup are still unclear. Despite hopes for the transitional Sudanese government to adopt democratic values, “remnants” of al-Bashir’s influence and hostilities remain prominent.
Omar al-Bashir assumed 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 states that Janjaweed became responsible for inflicting great harm on innocent civilians, resulting in the displacement of almost 2 million and deaths of over 300,000. This group also purposefully blocked the access of international aid organizations in providing necessary aid to affected populations. As a result, Bashir’s decision exacerbated existing ethnic tensions and crippled countless communities. In turn, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued two charges against Bashir: he was faced with crimes against humanity in 2009 and genocide in 2010.
Despite these charges, Bashir maintained his presidency through corrupt practices, eliminating those perceived as a political threat. However, in 2019, an increasingly frustrated Sudanese population ousted Bashir in a successful coup. Soon after his departure, Bashir was “found guilty of corruption” as well as “illegitimate possession of foreign currency.” Moreover, Sudan established a transitional government supported by the United Nations and favored by Western actors. It was meant to be a hybrid of civilian and military leadership, encouraging the development of democratic institutions. Led by new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, this new body signaled hope for easing tensions, promoting peace, and involving Sudan’s civil society in critical decision-making.
After two years, new challenges have begun to strain Sudan’s government. Al Jazeera reports that the transitional body has exhibited a “total lack of leadership,” ultimately failing to create a “detailed policy program” to address Covid-19, continuing internal conflicts, resource scarcity, and climate-induced threats. Al Jazeera also states that there has been no indication of a “civilian component” in the government’s promised “hybrid” system, leaving civilians frustrated and fearing that little change has occurred. Failing to integrate civilians into its government will undermine Sudan’s attempt to grow out of its past and resolve persisting structural problems the new regime has promised to address.
Additionally, concerns have grown about Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a “powerful paramilitary force” supported by the transitional government. According to Human Rights Watch, its violent actions have mimicked conduct from past groups and have demonstrated “unlawful [use of] authority.” Accounts from Vice News in 2020 highlight concerns from Darfur residents who fear being “slaughtered, killed, or raped” at the hands of government-sanctioned forces. Many interviewed say they have no choice but to join rebel groups that “offer protection” from government forces. These reports communicate the gruesome reality of Sudan’s domestic affairs and the role the new government plays in enabling them.
Though much work needs to be done to alleviate past and ongoing challenges, there have been some advances towards claiming justice for lives devastated by war. For instance, In August 2021, Al Jazeera reports that Sudan’s transitional government has pledged to “hand longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir to the ICC,” 10 years after the ICC’s first declaration of charges. Bashir, alongside his other supporting officials, must be held accountable for their role in inciting Sudanese genocide. To ensure communities’ well-being, Sudan’s transitional government must also re-examine its role in fueling further hostilities through the RSF. International organizations, such as the United Nations, through its UN Peacekeeping force, will also play a vital role in observing regional peacemaking initiatives. Prioritizing the needs of all Sudanese people will be of utmost importance, and failing to do so will undermine Sudan’s future.