On Friday, June 1, 2019 at the First United Methodist Church in Redding, California, Genocide No More Save Darfur hosted a screening of Faces of Genocide followed by a panel with Associate Producer and Writer Diane Samson; Esther Sprague, founder and director of Sudan Unlimited; and Egon Harrasser, Board Member of Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect. Since the film includes the crimes committed in Darfur by the Bashir regime, Esther provided the following update on the current situation in Sudan.
Protests that began in response to the economic crisis in Sudan quickly transformed into a country-wide non-violent revolution that is relentlessly demanding freedom, peace and justice. Protests began on December 13, 2018 in Blue Nile State and spread, on December 19th, to Gadarif, in Eastern Sudan, and to Atabara, a town, not on the periphery, but in the same region where Bashir was born. On December 25th, Sudanese professionals joined the protests and on January 1, 2019, the Declaration of Freedom and Change was issued, a joint statement by political and social movements, trade unions and community groups, including the Sudanese Professionals Association, the Sudan Call, the National Consensus Forces and others.
Unique to these ongoing protests is the united vision and voice of the Sudanese people. The Bashir regime remained in power for over 30 years through a policy of divide and rule. When Bashir tried to blame the protests on Darfur, the protesters declared, “Oh you arrogant racist, we are all Darfur.” In addition, these protests are different because they are not just the response of the marginalized regions, but they have engaged the entire country, they are lead primarily by youth and women, and they have inspired incredible art, music, poetry, videography and other forms of expression to capture the spirit, slogans and sacrifices of the revolution. Since April 15th, hundreds of Sudanese artists have been creating a 1.9 mile banner that will “visualize and symbolize the story of the revolution” in addition to likely breaking the Guinness World Record.
Tragically, dozens of people have been killed by the regime in response to the protests.
On April 11, 2019, the protests accomplished the (almost) unimaginable -- the removal of Bashir as president of Sudan. In Bashir’s place, a Transitional Military Council (TMC) seized power, and the protesters have remained, demanding a civilian-led transitional government. The protesters remarkably have the support of the international community. Statements have been issued in support of a civilian-led government by the UN and the African Union, the European Union, the Troika (Britain, Norway and the U.S), both Houses of Congress, and by others. Congressman McGovern drafted a letter that was signed by 92 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and Senator Ted Cruz introduced a resolution that, so far, has been co-sponsored by 27 senators, including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. It is the years and years of work by activists that has engaged Congress, causing them to act swiftly on behalf of the people of Sudan.
The greatest challenge the protesters currently face is the resistance of the Transitional Military Council to relinquish power. It is worth noting that the top leaders of the TMC, Burham and Hemeti, are responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, and Hemeti is the commander of the re-branded Janjaweed forces, the Rapid Support Forces. Protesters have surrounded military headquarters and tensions are rising. In the last three days, three people have been killed, including a pregnant woman, and eight others have been injured. Media outlets have been closed and in Darfur, IDP camps are being looted. Today, one protester was killed and eleven were injured by military forces. The Sudanese Professional Association issued a statement saying, “The killing and intimidation today is just a prelude to committing a massacre to end the sit-in by force.”
Today Tibor Nagy, the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs” tweeted, “I condemn the recent killings in Khartoum and the efforts to harass and expel journalists in Sudan. We call on the TMC to stop attempts to restrict the population’s right to peaceful protest and to ensure that there is no further violence. Suppression of free expression and the media are hallmarks of the old regime and we call on the TMC to halt the trend. We urge the TMC and FFC opposition coalition to return to negotiations that lead to an agreement. The TMC was not established to rule Sudan but to participate in the transition to a civilian-led transitional government. We call on both the TMC and FFC opposition coalition to return to negotiations and reach an agreement. It is time for Sudan’s next chapter to begin.”
The Sudanese people have achieved remarkable changes, and yet they are asking for support from the international community. While they are peaceful, they are surrounded by armed elements who likely refrain from greater violence because of international attention and pressure. This is a critical time for Sudan, and it is a time that will likely be studied for years to come, and so it is imperative that we remain engaged and vigilant in supporting the people of Sudan in their worthy yet dangerous quest for genuine change.