Sudan’s Interim Government: Violence Continues

21 January 2020

Sudan is one of the most fragile nations in the world with a long history of corrupt government and military. August 2019 saw a new interim government set to bring about democratic representation to the country within the next three years. But how well is this new government settling?



A year after the Sudanese civil war began in 1955, its colonial rule ended, leaving its inhabitants vulnerable and its stability at rock bottom. War broke out due to a lack of economic development in the south, along with ethnic and religious tensions between north and south of the country. The war was littered with human rights violations of all kinds but peaked in 2003 when ethnic cleansing was carried out in Darfur.

Although South Sudan split and created its own country in 2011, conflict and violent armed groups still remain in Darfur and along the border in South Kordofan, most notably in Abyei.


The end of President Omar al-Bashir

Protests erupted in Khartoum in December 2018, sparked by a deteriorating economic situation and sharply rising food costs. In a report, it was said that the protests ‘rapidly shifted to encompass the population’s deep discontent with the corrupt 30-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir.’

Finally, in a failed violent attempt to quash the protestors, the military arrest President al-Bashir in April 2019 and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) was created, meant to rule for one year. Once again, protests broke out as they viewed the TMC as a mark and remnant of the old oppressive regime that failed to meet their demands for legitimate civilian representation and they had fought so hard to oust.


Interim government

With the civilians of an unstable Sudan deeply unsatisfied with how the TMC was moving forward, a new agreement was signed for a new interim government to be put in place on 19th August 2019, agreeing to commit to establishing democratic representation within three years. This new government was a combination of five sovereign council members of the TMC and six members of the new civilian-led government.

It has been pointed out that although Sudan receives significant aid from the European Union and Saudi/UAE, this aid cannot provide the legitimacy of a stable government, and this government was not voted in.

In recent years, Sudan’s economy has not performed well. Due to the creation of South Sudan’s in 2011, Sudan has lost 70% of its oil reserves. GDP growth for 2018 was -2.321%, down from 4.283% in 2017, and its condition is deteriorating and seen to have a high impact on the country’s stability. Sudan is also still suffering from years of harsh sanctions imposed by the United States since 1997.


 Continuing violence

Massalit is a significant militia group from West Darfur and despite the fact that Omar al-Bashir no longer runs the country directly, many civilians view the Massalit as his lengthy arm, continuing to rule over Sudan made worse by the fact that the group had been armed by al-Bashir and clashing with ethnic groups in recent days.

Map showing El Geneina in West Darfur where thousands of inhabitants and IDPs fled intense fighting

On 30th December 2019 fighting intensified in West Darfur between the Massalit and ethnic groups which resulted in thousands of inhabitants of the region’s capital, El Geneina, and IDPs fleeing on New Year’s Day, many into neighbouring Chad. It was reported that 70 people were killed and many more injured. Houses were torched in an IDP camp, Kerending, killing another 50 individuals.

Although aid has now been allowed back into Sudan, the heavy gunfire prevented emergency workers from rescuing the wounded or collecting the dead and humanitarians were eventually evacuated from the area.

It has been speculated that the Rapid Support Force (RSF) was responsible with their leader, Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, making a display to ‘commit opportunistically to the prosecution of those found responsible for the violence’. Dagolo is no stranger to committing and organising horrific acts of violence.

Many blame the violence of the recent political changes at the national level. “Resistance committees” have developed amongst the increasingly polarized militant youth of the Massalit. Communities from which they are recruited from, predominantly Arab origin, see themselves as at risk of losing power.

Locals on both sides blame the interim military governor and the state’s Security Committee for failing to stop a series of individual, isolated confrontations between members of the two communities including attacks by armed militiamen on farmers and IDPs and revenge killings of members of Arab groups.


Where now?

It is hard to predict whether Sudan’s stability will improve at all within the next three years. Bashir’s regime has left so much tension and hatred amongst ethnic groups all over the country and currently, it doesn’t seem to be getting better. It is likely that without a deep routed and radical reversal of the ex-President’s oppressive and divisive policies, inter-communal violence will continue.

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