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With Dorian dominating headlines for the past week, you might have missed the big news coming out of Sudan — namely a total governmental overhaul.
Major changes have been ongoing since Apr. 11, 2019, when a coup d’état pushed out Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, who’d held power for nearly 30 years.
To put it simply: things are looking up.
A long, long time ago, or June 30, 1989 to be exact, Omar al-Bashir led his own military coup against the Republic of Sudan and Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
The new military regime quickly became an Islamic totalitarian one-party state with al-Bashir as its self-proclaimed president. Parliament and government were populated solely by members of the National Islamic Front (NIF), which rejected the idea of a secular (separation of religion and politics) state. (What a fun bunch.)
In 1997, al-Bashir ensured regional independence of the government with the creation of 26 states with very limited budgets, as opposed to the former model of five regions run by a military governor that had been in place since 1983.
It was during this time (1997-2005) that the Second Sudanese Civil War hit a boiling point. The First Sudanese Civil War ended in 1972 with the promise of giving the three southern states significantly more autonomy, so it’s no surprise that the rebels took up arms again when al-Bashir stepped on the scene.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which is now the army of the Republic of South Sudan, originated as a guerrilla movement led by John Garang, a developmental economist who coined the “Sudanism” philosophy, which embraced a secular and multi-ethnic Sudan.
As the rebel leaders in the Second Sudanese Civil War, their ideology was certainly pretty rad (literally and figuratively), but the journey to peace and equilibrium was far from pretty.
It’s estimated that in 1988 alone, roughly 450K Southern Sudanese civilians were killed in the clashes and, mainly, militia raids led by al-Bashir’s government which sought to punish the rebels via the mass murder of innocent people.
In 1987, for example, after conflict between the SPLA and the militia resulted in heavy militia losses, the militia retaliated by burning alive more than 1,000 displaced civilians inside railway wagons.
You get the (unfortunate) picture.
Fast-forward to 2005: after roughly 22 years of extremely violent conflict, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed by the government of Sudan and the SPLM to end the Second Sudanese Civil War and (eventually) usher in democratic governance countrywide. (The government was certainly in no hurry on that one.)
War was officially over, but life across the country was still less than peachy. By 2018, societal and economic foundations had deteriorated so significantly that protests broke out in several cities over the demand for urgent reform, which included the resignation of President al-Bashir. The government responded violently, sparking international concern, and eventually al-Bashir was forced to declare the first state of national emergency in 20 years.
It was two months later that al-Bashir was officially ousted from government.
A NEW ERA
It took almost six months, but Sudan finally rolled in their new government last week.
While announcing his new cabinet, which includes the country’s first-ever female foreign minister (yaas, girl!) , Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said that the new government was looking to form “sustainable peace.” (There is currently a three-year power-sharing agreement in place between Sudan’s military, civilian representatives and protest groups.)
The first task ahead of Sudan’s new 18-member cabinet is to fix the country’s broken economy, which comes full circle with restoring peace, since 80% of the state’s budget is currently being put towards military spending. The prime minister has promised that if they can secure peace, the money can go instead to health and education.
Perhaps the biggest indicator that the Sudanese government is ushering in a new era is the appointment of four female ministers to cabinet. Asma Abdallah is the country’s aforementioned first female foreign minister, while former World Bank economist Ibrahim Elbadawi is the new finance minister. Another important appointment is Madani Abbas Madani as minister of industry and trade — Madani was the leader of the civilian coalition that negotiated the current transition deal with the military. (In other words: she’s a badass b*tch. 🙌)
While all this is great news, it certainly doesn’t mean people have been celebrating in the streets. South Sudan in particular is having difficulty working out the kinks. Still considered a separate country from Sudan, the country’s president, Salva Kiir, has faced criticism from the south’s largest rebel group over his failure to provide the very necessary $100 million needed to support Sudan’s new transitional government.
Sh*t really hit the fan when the people learned that the government had funded a very expensive highway; ironically, the road to peace would have cost them about $600 million less. 😬
NEW(ISH) KIDS ON THE BLOCK
So what does the rest of the world think about Sudan’s new ‘do? Generally, the response has been super positive. (We love making new friends!)
Foreign Minister Abdalla Hamdok has already received a formal invitation to Paris from French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss how France can support Sudan’s transition. It’s reported that France has promised its full support for the country’s civilian rule.
If a French-Sudanese partnership forms, it will heavily boost Sudan’s presence on the international stage.
Germany is also happy to lend a helping hand to Sudan, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Germany’s pledged to increase its humanitarian aid to €15 million (an increase of €10 million), and is apparently keen to remove Sudan from the terrorism list once the new government succeeds in its democratic goals.
Egypt has joined Germany in its efforts to remove Sudan from the terrorism list; Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, is apparently working closely with the powers that be in Washington and other international departments to take Sudan’s name off the list. Egypt’s support comes after a previously shaky relationship due to various border and trade disputes.
It’s good news for Sudan’s foreign minister, who, within her first 24 hours in cabinet, named getting the country off the terrorism list as her top priority.
It’s even better news for the country and its economic struggle. Citizens have been desperate for basic goods such as fuel and flour.
One thing’s for sure: for the first time in a long time, it seems like the international community is supporting Sudan.